An eating disorder is an illness that causes serious disturbances to your everyday diet, such as eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, the urge to eat less or eat more spirals out of control.
Left untreated, eating disorders can result in severe medical and psychological conditions, affecting not only the person with the disorder, but their relationships with family and friends.
Intense focus, distress or concern about body weight or shape may also characterize an eating disorder. Eating disorders generally appear during the teenage years and young adulthood, though they may also develop during childhood or later in life. Common eating disorders include Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, and EDNOS.
Eating disorder treatment depends on your particular disorder and your symptoms. It typically includes a combination of psychological therapy (psychotherapy), nutrition education, medical monitoring and sometimes medications.
Eating disorder treatment also involves addressing other health problems caused by an eating disorder, which can be serious or even life-threatening if they go untreated for too long. If an eating disorder doesn’t improve with standard treatment or causes health problems, you may need hospitalization or another type of inpatient program.
Having an organized approach to eating disorder treatment can help you manage symptoms, return to a healthy weight, and maintain your physical and mental health.
Psychological therapy is the most important component of eating disorder treatment. It involves seeing a psychologist or another mental health professional on a regular basis. Therapy may last from a few months to years. It can help you to:
• Normalize your eating patterns and achieve a healthy weight
• Exchange unhealthy habits for healthy ones
• Learn how to monitor your eating and your moods
• Develop problem-solving skills
• Explore healthy ways to cope with stressful situations
• Improve your relationships
• Improve your mood
Treatment may involve a combination of different types of therapy, such as:
• Cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of psychotherapy focuses on behaviors,
thoughts and feelings related to your eating disorder. After helping you gain healthy
eating behaviors, it helps you learn to recognize and change distorted thoughts that lead
to eating disorder behaviors.
• Family-based therapy. During this therapy, family members learn to help you restore
healthy eating patterns and achieve a healthy weight until you can do it on your own.
This type of therapy can be especially useful for parents learning how to help a teen with
an eating disorder.
• Group cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy involves meeting with a
psychologist or other mental health professional along with others who are diagnosed
with an eating disorder. It can help you address thoughts, feelings and behaviors related
to your eating disorder, learn skills to manage symptoms, and regain healthy eating
Your psychologist or other mental health professional may ask you to do homework, such as
keep a food journal to review in therapy sessions and identify triggers that cause you to binge,
purge or do other unhealthy eating behaviors.