Treatment for Anorexia

Anorexia (or anorexia nervosa) is a serious mental illness where people limit their energy intake, leading to a low body weight. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, or background. The way people with anorexia see themselves may be very different to how others see them – they often have a distorted image of themselves, and think they’re larger than they really are. People with anorexia experience a deep fear of gaining weight, and will usually challenge the idea that they should. You can read more about anorexia here.

In most cases, anorexia can be treated in outpatient facilities. More intensive treatment in day patient and inpatient units might become necessary if the condition worsens, if your health doesn’t improve in response to outpatient treatment, or there is other high risk to your physical health.

Therapy

There are lots of different talking therapies that can be used to help treat anorexia. The aims of talking therapies are to reduce risks to your physical and psychological wellbeing, encourage healthy eating, and aid your recovery by helping you to develop healthy ways of coping with the thoughts and feelings behind your eating disorder.

Therapies that might form part of the treatment for anorexia include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
  • Focal psychodynamic therapy (FPT)
  • Family interventions focused on eating disorders

You can read a bit more about what each therapy involves in our glossary of eating disorder terms. The most useful therapy will vary from person to person and depend on circumstances. For example, family interventions are recommended as part of the treatment for children and adolescents. The therapy you’re offered should take into account your preferences and those of the people caring for you where appropriate.

Search for therapists

Self-help and support groups

Self-help and support groups where you’re able to talk to others going through similar experiences can be useful to both sufferers and their families throughout treatment and in sustaining recovery. Please search our Helpfinder database for information about what’s available in your area. Alternatively, Beat runs online support groups for people with eating disorders.

Search for support groups

Issue date: January 2017  Review date: January 2020 Version 2.0 Sources used to create this information are available by contacting Beat. We welcome your feedback on our information resources.