Mental HealthEating DisordersEating Disorders: What Are My Treatment Options?

Eating Disorders: What Are My Treatment Options?

Living with an eating disorder comes with challenges. The good news is that there are plenty of treatment options

While everyones experience with an eating disorder is unique you don’t have to face it. Managing this condition doesn’t have to be a struggle.

Eating disorders can affect people from all walks of life regardless of their gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity or body type. It’s important to know that there are resources and tools there that can make a significant difference.

If you’re dealing with an eating disorder or suspect that you might be, rest assured that help is within your reach. You have various choices available to you.

In this article we will explore treatments and how accessible they are. We’ll also provide advice, on how to navigate your daily life while coping with an eating disorder.

Treatment options

To effectively address and treat an eating disorder it’s important to keep in mind that obtaining a diagnosis is a first step. Seeking guidance from a professional can provide you with treatment options that are personalized to meet your specific needs.

The main approaches for treating eating disorders include;

  • Therapy
  • Medication
  • Treatment, at specialized eating disorder clinics
  • Incorporating self care routines into your life

While a singular approach, such as therapy, may prove effective for one individual, a combination of approaches might be more suitable for another. The key is to identify the approach that resonates best with you.

Treatments may also vary depending on the specific condition you are managing, such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

Various specialists can provide treatment for eating disorders, including:

  • Internal medicine physicians
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Clinical social workers
  • Nurses
  • Dietitians


Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy is an used approach for treating eating disorders.

When dealing with eating disorders it can be challenging to differentiate between behaviors and those that have negative effects on your mental and physical well being. A therapist plays a role in helping you understand this distinction.

In therapy sessions you have conversations with a health professional, about your personal experiences. They assist in identifying the factors that contribute to distress and provide guidance towards finding solutions.

Various forms of therapy for eating disorders exist, including, but not limited to:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Family-Based Treatment (FBT)

Each type of treatment, as suggested by its name, offers distinct approaches to cope with the challenges accompanying an eating disorder.

Conducting research on these specific methods can assist you in determining the most suitable one for your needs. If uncertain, consulting a doctor or mental health professional can provide valuable guidance.


There are currently no medications specifically developed for the treatment of eating disorders. However certain medications can be helpful, in managing conditions that may occur alongside eating disorders. These medications aim to address both the biological factors that contribute to disordered eating behaviors.

Medications can aid in the management of anxiety, depression, substance use, and other mental health conditions that might coincide with an eating disorder.

In numerous cases, these conditions are intricately intertwined with disordered eating patterns. Comprehensive treatment plans that address all relevant conditions tend to be the most effective approach.

Eating disorder clinics

Eating disorder clinics, which are also known as treatment centers provide a variety of choices for individuals seeking assistance. Different levels of care are offered to accommodate the requirements of those who have eating disorders.

These different levels of care serve purposes, in the treatment journey depending on the particular symptoms experienced. They include:

  • Outpatient programs, which involve weekly therapy sessions.
  • Partial hospitalization, suitable for those requiring close monitoring of their medical and psychological well-being by a care team.
  • Residential programs, recommended when partial hospitalization and outpatient treatments prove inadequate.
  • Inpatient care, intended for individuals in need of intensive medical or psychological attention, especially in cases of medical complications or suicidal thoughts or actions.

Considering the potential medical implications of eating disorders, it is prudent for treatment providers to address other health issues arising from the disorder.

Dietitians play a vital role by offering valuable insights into proper nutrition and closely monitoring the patient’s physical well-being to ensure they remain sufficiently healthy at their current level of treatment.


As much as it may sound cliché, self-care constitutes another crucial step in treating your eating disorder.

For individuals dealing with anorexia or bulimia, it could be beneficial to step away from the unrealistic body images often encountered online.

Taking care of oneself can be as simple as showing kindness and compassion towards oneself. While it might be difficult acknowledging and dealing with self talk is a big step, towards adopting a more nurturing mindset.

Do the treatments differ by the specific disorder?

Indeed, every eating disorder is unique, and consequently, the treatment approaches vary accordingly.

There are common eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Each of these requires an personalized approach, to treatment.


Anorexia refers to a condition where individuals often experience weight loss or have a body mass that falls below the recommended standards, for their age, gender and overall physical health. Additionally it involves a fear of gaining weight and a distorted view of ones own body image.

In certain instances, anorexia may lead to various physical ramifications, which include:

  • anemia
  • cardiac issues
  • decreased bone density
  • renal complications

Approaches to address anorexia may entail the management or prevention of medical complications.


Similar to anorexia, bulimia frequently revolves around low self-esteem or an excessive preoccupation with body image. However, bulimia is characterized by purging behavior, which brings about its own set of physical consequences.

Over time the effects on health specific to bulimia can include tooth decay, swollen glands near the esophagus and ulcers. As a result the treatment, for bulimia needs to take into account both the psychological aspects that differentiate this eating disorder from others.

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder is a type of eating disorder where individuals experience a loss of control during episodes of eating and frequently engage in overeating, which often leads to feelings of shame.

This condition can have health effects, such as;

  • Not getting essential nutrients
  • Dry skin
  • Acne breakouts
  • Feeling lacking energy
  • Increased blood pressure

When seeking treatment, for binge eating disorder it is important for your doctor to take these factors into consideration and customize the approach accordingly.

How to find support

Dealing with an eating disorder doesn’t imply that you must face it in solitude. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) provides a search tool to aid you in discovering nearby treatment possibilities.

Numerous resources are available for additional support:

  • In the United States, NEDA operates an online chat and helpline specifically for eating disorders. You can reach out by calling or texting 800-931-2237.
  • NEDA also hosts a blog and community resources, including forums, where you can connect with others who are experiencing similar challenges.
  • The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) provides a helpline, treatment directory, and links to support groups.

For more personal support, you can explore the blog Beat.

Remember, there are compassionate organizations and individuals ready to assist you on your journey to recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support.

Preparing for your appointment

Once you’ve made the decision to start therapy it’s natural to experience a mix of emotions when you go for your appointment.

Experiencing nervousness, vulnerability, or a sense of being overwhelmed is entirely typical. To ensure that you gain the maximum benefit from your treatment, despite these emotions, there are specific steps you can follow before and during your first session.

Know what to expect

Being aware of what to anticipate during your initial appointment can alleviate the anxiety that accompanies seeking help.

During your session the focus of the conversation will probably be on your eating patterns how you perceive your body and food and there might be some extent of physical assessment involved. So it’s advisable to make sure you’re ready, for these aspects best as you can.

If you find yourself feeling anxious at any moment, take a deep breath. Try to remind yourself of the reasons why you decided to seek treatment in the first place. Additionally, setting goals in your mind about what you hope to achieve from the session can be helpful.

Recognize your progress

Above all, practice self-compassion. You have reached a point where you are contemplating treatment options, and that’s an achievement to be proud of.

Ask questions

Since this might be an experience, for you it’s completely normal to have some questions, in mind.

Here are a few examples of questions that you can ask your healthcare professional during your appointment:

  • What is your level of experience in treating eating disorders?
  • How long does each therapy session typically last?
  • Can you explain what usually occurs during a typical session?
  • How do you address co-occurring conditions such as depression and anxiety in the treatment?
  • Which other healthcare professionals will be involved in my treatment?
  • Could you please outline the benefits and risks associated with this particular treatment approach?
  • What role will family members or friends play in the treatment process?

Remember, you have every right to be informed about the details of your treatment. If you find yourself in need of further clarification at any point during the process, feel free to ask your treatment provider.

Tips for managing an eating disorder

During the course of your treatment, there exist specific day-to-day tactics that you can employ to effectively handle your eating disorder:

  • Take a moments to acknowledge any intrusive thoughts you may have regarding eating and body image. Try to recognize these thoughts and remind yourself; “I am aware that I’m having a thought related to my struggles with food.” Approach these thoughts with kindness and understanding as this approach may help lessen their impact.
  • Consider jotting down recurring negative thoughts. Then, in a separate column, compose affirmations that reframe those thoughts in a positive or different manner. Employing this two-column technique can aid you in challenging and disrupting harmful thought patterns.

Furthermore it can be helpful to reach out to a friend, for support. Having understanding friends and supportive family members who’re willing to listen can help alleviate the sense of being alone and offer aid as you work towards healing.

Managing an eating disorder can be particularly challenging amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find information on ways to cope with an eating disorder during quarantine in this resource.

Next steps

When you are prepared to discuss treatment, there are numerous avenues to contact a healthcare team. One option is to consult a primary care physician, who can connect you with a specialist in the field of eating disorders or mental health.

You can also find materials like guides, testimonials and research studies. However it’s up to you to decide the steps to take in collaboration with your treatment team. This is where your journey, towards recovery begins.

To locate an eating disorder professional in your vicinity, you can explore Psych Central’s Find a Therapist page.



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