Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating Disorder Treatment

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

Types of Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating disorders are not uncommon and are not limited to one gender or age group. Anyone is susceptible to developing a difficult relationship with food, their body, and exercise. Some people may be more prone to this because of other mental health conditions, but everyone has things they do not like about themselves and wish they could change. That desire to change something about your physical appearance can, in some cases, escalate to an extreme disorder revolving around food.

Once someone has developed an eating disorder, it can be difficult to escape from without proper professional help1 Eating disorders have everything to do with our minds and the way we think about and visualize ourselves. For this type of mental illness, not only do physical changes need to be made, but mental changes and habits need to change as well.

It is ok to desire to be healthy and in shape. The physical response our bodies have to being healthy and eating good food is positive2 It makes us feel good inside and out. The problem arises when that desire stops being something you implement in your life to make you feel good and you instead become obsessed with the number on the scale, the amount of food you eat, and the inches around your body.

Typical symptoms of an eating disorder include:


  • mood swings
  • frequent mirror checks
  • obsessive dieting
  • withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities and friends
  • cutting out entire food groups
  • skipping meals/extremely small portions
  • food rituals
  • do not like eating in front of others
  • obsessive thoughts and behaviors that make your life revolve around weight, food, and dieting
  • weight fluctuations
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • missed/irregular periods
  • dizziness/fainting
  • feeling cold
  • problems sleeping
  • finger calluses (inducing vomiting)
  • brittle nails, hair loss, dry skin
  • cavities, teeth discoloration
  • muscle weakness
  • yellow skin
  • infections/impaired immune system


The effects of an eating disorder, no matter which one (Anorexia, Bulimia, Orthorexia, Binge Eating) are all serious and all can have a long-lasting impact on your well-being and health. There may be slight differences between each of the eating disorders, but the effects that they have on your mental and physical health are serious. If you suspect that you or someone you love has developed a poor relationship with food and their weight, there is professional treatment available. And the sooner you seek it out, the better the outcome will be.

Treatment can come in all shapes and sizes, but will typically include variations of three different categories: psychological therapy, nutrition/healthcare, and medication. You may require all three categories or you may only require two of them. Most cases will at least involve psychological help and nutrition education and healthcare. Not all cases will need medication. It just depends on you and your situation.

Eating Disorder Treatment Options


Psychological help for Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating disorders do not only affect your body. They affect the mind as well. You will need professional help to reshape your mindset and habits around food and weight. It can help you create healthy habits and get rid of unhealthy ones. It can reshape the way you look at yourself or critique yourself in the mirror. It can give you a healthy coping mechanism to deal with problems that arise.

There are a few different therapy methods you can use and you can use a combination of all three if you choose. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a method used for many mental illnesses. It will pinpoint behaviors and feelings that have likely extended or caused your eating disorder. Learning about these thoughts and feelings can help you analyze your own behavior when you are out in the world and dealing with something that is triggering.

Family-based therapy involves your family if that is something you think would be helpful. They are often support systems and having them as a part of your therapy can be helpful for accountability. Group CBT is similar to the cognitive behavioral therapy listed above but will involve others who are in a similar boat as you. Discussing similar feelings and behaviors with people who struggle as you do can be very cathartic.

Nutrition/Healthcare for Eating Disorder Treatment

Dietitians and other healthcare professionals are those you will need to help establish a healthy eating plan and pattern. You will likely need to see a physician to assist with any sort of medical issues that have arisen because of the eating disorder. These are the people who will help create a care plan for you as you move forward with the process

Medication for Eating Disorder Treatment

Not everyone needs medication for their eating disorder and medication does not cure eating disorders. Medications in this scenario are used along with therapy. They are often antidepressant medications and can help you cope with depression, anxiety, and other symptoms that exacerbate your eating disorder.

Hospitalization/Residential Treatment

In some cases, many people will need to attend a residential treatment or spend time as an inpatient in a hospital for medical issues. Residential treatments are specifically made for long-term eating disorder care and you will likely live with others who have similar illnesses. Hospitalization is usually involved if the medical complications involved with your eating disorder are serious and require intensive medical attention.

Day Programs for Eating Disorder Treatment

There are hospital and eating disorder facility programs that function as if you were an out-patient. These are where you come in daily or a few times a week for close-knit guidance or group therapy. These day programs can include medical care and family therapy as well. You spend the day at the facility and receive both your therapy variation and nutrition education in one place – often with others who are also going through the recovery process.

Long Term Healthcare for Eating Disorder Treatment

In some severe cases, those who have recovered from an eating disorder will need long-term treatment. This long-term treatment is either out-patient or in-patient but is required because the medical issues that were caused by the eating disorder were not resolvable with the eating disorder. They are health issues that the individual will likely live with for the rest of their life.

No matter what treatment you end up needing, you are taking an important step. The first step is always the most difficult, but you are not alone in your recovery and you are well worth the time and effort it will take to recover from your eating disorder.

References: Eating Disorder Treatment

  1. Hudson JI, Hiripi E, Pope HG, Jr, Kessler RC. The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Biol Psychiatry 2007;61(3):348-358 [PubMed] []
  2. Currin L, Schmidt U, Waller G. Variables that influence diagnosis and treatment of the eating disorders within primary care settings: a vignette study. Int J Eat Disord. 2007;40(4):257-262 [PubMed] []
  3. Stice E, Telch C, Rizvi S. Development and validation of the Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale: a brief self-report measure of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Psychol Assess 2000;12(2):123-131 [PubMed] []
  4. Strober M, Freeman R, Morrell W. The long-term course of severe anorexia nervosa in adolescents: survival analysis of recovery, relapse, and outcome predictors over 10-15 years in a prospective study. Int J Eat Disord. 1997;22(3):339-360 [PubMed] []
  5. Fairburn CG, Harrison PJ. Eating disorders. Lancet 2003;361(9355):407-416 [PubMed] []
  6. Golden NH, Lanzkowsky L, Schebendach J, Palestro CJ, Jacobson MS, Shenker IR. The effect of estrogen-progestin treatment on bone mineral density in anorexia nervosa. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2002;15(3):135-143 [PubMed] []
  7. Dare C, Eisler I, Russell G, Szmukler G. The clinical and theoretical impact of a controlled trial of family therapy in anorexia nervosa. J Marital Fam Ther. 1990;16(1):39-57 []
  8. Le Grange D. Family therapy for adolescent anorexia nervosa. J Clin Psychiatry 1994;55(12):727-739 []
  9. Parker SC, Lyons J, Bonner J. Eating disorders in graduate students: exploring the SCOFF questionnaire as a simple screening tool. J Am Coll Health 2005;45(3):103-107 [PubMed] []
  10. Grilo CM, Masheb RM, Wilson GT. Subtyping binge eating disorder. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2001;69(6):1066-1072 [PubMed] []
  11. Fairburn CG, Jones R, Peveler RC, Hope RA, O’Connor M. Psychotherapy and bulimia nervosa: longer-term effects of interpersonal psychotherapy, behavior therapy, and cognitive-behavior therapy. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1993;50(6):419-428 [PubMed] []
  12. Wilfley DE, Welch RR, Stein RI, et al. A randomized comparison of group cognitive behavioral therapy and group interpersonal psychotherapy for the treatment of overweight individuals with binge eating disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2002;59(8):713-721 [PubMed] []
  13. Birketvedt GS, Florholmen J, Sundsfjord J, et al. Behavioral and neuroendocrine characteristics of the night eating syndrome. JAMA 1999;282(7):657-663 [PubMed] []
  14. Stunkard AJ, Allison KC, Lundggren JD, et al. A paradigm for facilitating pharmacotherapy at a distance: sertralin in the treatment of the night eating syndrome. J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(10):1568-1572 [PubMed] []
Eating Disorder Treatment
Article Name
Eating Disorder Treatment
Publisher Name
Worlds Best Rehab
Publisher Logo
At Worlds Best Rehab, we strive to provide the most up-to-date and accurate medical information on the web so our readers can make informed decisions about their healthcare.
Our reviewers are credentialed medical providers specializing in addiction treatment and behavioral healthcare. We follow strict guidelines when fact-checking information and only use credible sources when citing statistics and medical information. Look for the medically reviewed badge Worlds Best Rehab on our articles for the most up-to-date and accurate information.
If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate or out-of-date, please let us know via our Contact Page