How do you treat an eating disorder?

Medical Treatment & Medications

Medical Treatment
People with eating disorders need to see a physician on a regular basis. The doctor can watch for and treat any physical problems that are a result of their illness.

The doctor will likely look for:

  • changes in weight, pulse, or blood pressure
  • dental problems
  • strength of bones (bone density)
  • unusual levels of hormones and electrolytes (potassium) in the blood
  • irregular periods (for girls and women)

Children and youth also need to be carefully watched and measured to make sure they are developing at a normal rate.

The treatment plan for eating disorders sometimes includes medications. They are usually offered in addition to psychotherapy. Medications can help people with eating disorders who are struggling with other mental health symptoms, like anxiety or depression. They can help people to recover more quickly and prevent a return to disordered eating. The doctors who assess for eating disorders and other mental health challenges are psychiatrists. They can also prescribe medications.

The types of medication used most often for people with eating disorders are antidepressants. They can help to decrease the depression or mood problems that exist along with the eating disorder. They can also be useful for other mental health problems, including anxiety. Antidepressants are more effective for people with bulimia nervosa than for those with anorexia nervosa. A different group of medications are sometimes used to treat eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa. They are called antipsychotics.

There is very little research on medications that reduce symptoms of binge-eating disorder, especially in children and youth. Some research shows that antidepressants can be helpful.

Many of these medications have serious side effects. Anyone taking them should be closely followed by a professional who has experience working with people with eating disorders.

Types of Disorders: How do I know if I have an eating disorder? Finding Help: Where can I find help?

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