Many people with anorexia will be advised to participate in psychological therapy, usually a talking therapy such as:
• Cognitive behavioural therapy – challenges negative thought processes that may be causing issues with eating
• Counselling – talking about thoughts, feelings and problems with a trained counsellor in a safe, supportive, one-to-one environment to deal with emotional issues
• Focal psychodynamic therapy – explores events that may have happened in early life that have caused negative thoughts and feelings which may be causing anorexia
• Interpersonal therapy – this explores the relationships a person with anorexia has with other people and how this impacts upon their emotions and feelings
• Family therapy – often used for young people with anorexia and their families, to help both the young person and their loved ones understand the illness and its impact on one another
• Cognitive analytic therapy – explores things that may have happened in your past that may be the root cause of some of the thoughts you have, causing your anorexia
Your therapy is likely to involve working with a mental health practitioner, psychiatrist, psychotherapist or psychologist. Every individual will respond differently to different therapies, so you may start off with one type of therapy and then move on to something else if you and your therapist do not feel the therapy is helping your recovery.
Specialist treatment programmes
There are two treatment programmes which may be offered to you by the NHS:
• Maudsley Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults (MANTRA) – usually around 20 sessions long, this programme is specifically designed to help you recover from anorexia and understand why you are affected by it, as well as learning coping mechanisms to help you continue to deal with your eating disorder after the programme is finished
• Specialist supportive clinical management (SSCM) – usually taken alongside a talking therapy, this programme focusses on managing your anorexia with the support of a healthcare professional who gives you one-to-one, weekly support, encouragement and advice
Medication treatment for anorexia
There are no drugs that can treat anorexia, but you may be prescribed anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medication to help deal with related mental health problems you may have such as depression and anxiety.
Some people with anorexia need to be cared for in a hospital or clinic. This may be important to their immediate health, i.e. if their weight is dangerously low, or it may be important to their recovery if the home environment may hinder their progress in some way. Some people agree to be admitted, and some may be ‘sectioned’, which means a group of medical professionals have agreed that the person needs to be cared for in a specialist hospital or clinic for a period of time, despite them not wanting to do this, for their own safety and wellbeing. This is a last resort and most people are able to recover from anorexia whilst living at home or perhaps attending a clinic as an outpatient.
Many people with anorexia will need to visit a dietician who will monitor their weight and food intake to ensure they are eating healthily whilst also gaining weight.
Children and young people with anorexia
Treatment for young people with anorexia is likely to be similar to that for adults. If you are concerned that your child has an eating disorder, the NHS offers advice and information to help you.
Anorexia treatment can be a challenging time, but many people find a way through their illness and are able to recover completely. If you are worried about seeking help for anorexia, it may help you to read real-life stories from people who have experienced anorexia diagnosis and anorexia treatment.
You may wish to learn more about the various treatments for anorexia.