Eating disorder treatment: Know your options

Photo of author
Written By DerrickCalvert

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur pulvinar ligula augue quis venenatis. 

Treatment for eating disorders depends on the severity of your disorder and your individual symptoms. This treatment typically involves a combination or psychological therapy (psychotherapy), nutritional education, medical monitoring, and sometimes medication.

Treatment for eating disorders also includes addressing any other health issues that may be caused by the disorder. These can be life-threatening or serious if left untreated. You may need to be admitted if your eating disorder does not improve or causes you health problems. SunCloud Health offers integrated, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization services. It has locations in Northbrook and Naperville as well as Chicago (Lincoln Park). Our team, led by Dr. Kim Dennis provides teen eating disorders, long-term support, and disease management for all individuals who struggle with addictions to alcohol or drugs, process addictions and eating disorders, mood disorders and traumas (PTSD).

A structured approach to treatment for eating disorders can help you manage your symptoms, return to a healthy body weight, and maintain mental and physical health.

Where do you start?

You can benefit from referrals to professionals who are experts in treating eating disorders. Your treatment team could include:

Psychological therapy is provided by a mental health professional such as a psychologist. A psychiatrist is a professional who can prescribe and manage medication. Psychological therapy is also offered by some psychiatrists.

  • Registered dietitian for education in nutrition and meal planning.
  • Your eating disorder may require the attention of a dentist or medical specialist.

Your partner, parents, or other family members. Parents should be involved in the treatment of young adults who are still at home and may also supervise meals.

It is best that everyone involved in your treatment communicates your progress to allow for adjustments as necessary.

It can be difficult to manage an eating disorder. Even if you have a controlled eating disorder or other health issues, it is possible to need to see your treatment team regularly.

Establishing a treatment plan

Your treatment team and you will determine your needs and create goals and guidelines. Your treatment team will work with you to:

Create a treatment plan. This plan will include a treatment plan and goals. This document also outlines what to do if your plan doesn’t work.

Take care of any physical problems. Your treatment team will monitor and address any health or medical concerns that may arise from your eating disorder.

Identify your resources. The treatment team can help identify resources in your area that will help you achieve your goals.

Find affordable treatment options. Outpatient and hospitalization for eating disorders can be costly. Insurance may not cover all costs. Discuss financial concerns with your team. Don’t delay treatment due to the possibility of high costs.

Psychological therapy

The most important part of treatment for eating disorders is psychological therapy. This involves regular visits to a psychologist or other mental health professional.

The therapy can last anywhere from a few months up to many years. Therapy can be helpful for:

  • You can normalize your eating habits and reach a healthy weight.
  • Healthy habits can be exchanged for unhealthy ones
  • Learn how to manage your mood and eating habits
  • Learn problem-solving skills
  • Find healthy ways to deal with stressful situations
  • Enhance your relationships
  • You can improve your mood

The treatment may include a combination of several types of therapy such as:

Cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on your eating disorder and the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that you have. It helps you to develop healthy eating habits and helps you recognize and correct distorted thoughts that can lead to eating disorders.

Family-based therapy. Family-based therapy is where family members are trained to assist you in restoring healthy eating habits and achieving a healthy weight. This therapy is especially helpful for parents who want to support a teenager with an eating disorder.

Group cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy includes a meeting with a psychologist, other mental health professional, and others with an eating disorder. This therapy can help you to address your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in relation to your eating disorder. It also helps you to learn how to manage your symptoms and regain healthy eating habits.

A psychologist or mental health professional might ask you to do some homework. For example, keep a food journal for therapy sessions. This will help you identify triggers that can cause you to binge, purge, or engage in other unhealthy eating habits.

Nutrition education

Registered dietitians, as well as other professionals involved in your care, can help you understand your eating disorder and create a plan for healthy eating. The goals of nutrition education could be:

Achieve a healthy weight

Understanding how nutrition affects your body is key, as well as how to recognize how eating disorders can cause nutritional issues and other problems.

  • Plan meals
  • Set up regular eating habits — usually, 3 meals per day and regular snacks
  • You can avoid binging and dieting.
  • Correct health problems caused by malnutrition and obesity

Medication for eating disorders

An eating disorder cannot be treated with medication. Combining them with psychological therapy is the best way to make them work.

The most commonly prescribed medication for treating eating disorders, such as binge-eating and purging, is antidepressants. However, depending on the individual situation, other medications may be required.

If you suffer from bulimia, binge-eating disorder, or other eating disorders, taking an antidepressant can be very helpful. Anxiety and depression symptoms can be reduced by taking antidepressants. These conditions often occur alongside eating disorders.

Your eating disorder may cause you to need medication.

Hospitalization for eating disorders

If you have severe mental or physical health problems, or if your anorexia is preventing you from eating or increasing your weight, you may need to be admitted. Anorexia can lead to serious or life-threatening health issues.

The goal of hospitalization in many cases is to stabilize acute medical conditions and begin the process of normalizing eating habits and weight. Most eating and weight restoration can be done in an outpatient setting.

Programs for hospital day treatment

Day treatment programs are structured. They require that you attend for several hours per day, many days a week. Day treatment may include medical care, group, individual and/or family therapy, structured eating sessions, and nutrition education.

Residential treatment for eating disorders

You temporarily reside at an eating disorder treatment center while you receive residential treatment. If you are in need of long-term treatment for an eating disorder, or if your mental or physical health is not improving after being admitted to the hospital several times, a residential treatment program might be required.