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When you have anorexia nervosa, you may need several types of treatment. Treatment is generally done using a team approach that includes medical providers, mental health providers and dietitians, all with experience in eating disorders. Ongoing therapy and nutrition education are highly important to continued recovery.
Here's a look at what's commonly involved in treating people with anorexia.
If your life is in immediate danger, you may need treatment in a hospital emergency room for such issues as a heart rhythm disturbance, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances or psychiatric problems. Hospitalization may be required for medical complications, psychiatric emergencies, severe malnutrition or continued refusal to eat. Hospitalization may be on a medical or psychiatric ward.
Some clinics specialize in treating people with eating disorders. Some may offer day programs or residential programs rather than full hospitalization. Specialized eating disorder programs may offer more intensive treatment over longer periods of time.
Because of the host of complications anorexia causes, you may need frequent monitoring of vital signs, hydration level and electrolytes, as well as related physical conditions. In severe cases, people with anorexia may initially require feeding through a tube that's placed in their nose and goes to the stomach (nasogastric tube).
A primary care doctor may be the one who coordinates care with the other health care professionals involved. Sometimes, though, it's the mental health provider who coordinates care.
The first goal of treatment is getting back to a healthy weight. You can't recover from an eating disorder without restoring an appropriate weight and learning proper nutrition.
A psychologist or other mental health professional can work with you to develop behavioral strategies to help you return to a healthy weight. A dietitian can offer guidance getting back to regular patterns of eating, including providing specific meal plans and calorie requirements that help you meet your weight goals. Your family will also likely be involved in helping you maintain normal eating habits.
These types of therapy may be beneficial:
No medications are approved to treat anorexia because none has been found to work very well. However, antidepressants or other psychiatric medications can help treat other mental disorders you may also have, such as depression or anxiety.
One of the biggest challenges in treating anorexia is that people may not want treatment. Barriers to treatment may include:
People with eating disorders can recover. However, they're at increased risk of relapse during periods of high stress or during triggering situations. Ongoing therapy or periodic appointments during times of stress may help you stay healthy.