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Other Treatments for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can be treated with the following interventions:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Group support
  • Family therapy
  • Hospitalization

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Therapists can help you develop a healthier and more realistic self-image. They will help you find new ways to think about your body and yourself. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been especially successful when used for people who have bulimia and, along with medicine, has proven to be the most effective treatment for this condition. If you have bulimia, CBT may help you normalize your eating patterns, end binging and purging, and teach you to eat small amounts of food more regularly.

If you have binge eating disorder , CBT is used to help increase your self-esteem and motivation to stop binging. It can also help treat depression , which is common among binge eaters.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy may help you understand and cope with concerns about your relationships. It may help you cope with anxiety and depression that may occur with your eating disorder. It is also useful in addressing social factors that influence your eating behavior.

Interpersonal therapy can help you express your feelings, develop a stronger sense of individuality, cope with change, and address past trauma that might have played a role in your eating disorder.

Group Support

There are many different types of groups for people with eating disorders. Groups may be part of an inpatient or outpatient program, be led by a private therapist, or exist independently. A therapist, recovered person, or other individual may lead support groups for people with eating disorders. Topics may include coping strategies, body image, nutrition information, spirituality, family issues, art therapy, or a combination of topics. CBT can be effectively conducted in a group session.

Family Therapy

Complex family behaviors and attitudes often play a role in eating disorders. Many people cannot recover unless their families recognize their roles in the problem and make changes. Close family members need to understand the disorder and support the patient. Family therapy can play an important part in the treatment plan.


If you have anorexia nervosa and are hospitalized, you will receive strict dietary control and monitoring until you gain a desirable amount of weight. Ultimate success depends upon your commitment to change.

You may be hospitalized if:

  • Your weight is significantly below 15% of your ideal body weight
  • You have signs of serious physical or emotional deterioration

Most people with bulimia do not have to be hospitalized unless they develop anorexia, need medicines to withdraw from purging, or have major depression with suicidal thoughts.

Psychotherapy is more effective after you have started gaining weight and malnutrition has been corrected.

Revision Information

  • Eating disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: . Updated 2011. Accessed July 11, 2013.

  • Treatment. National Eating Disorders Association website. Available at: . Accessed July 11, 2013.

  • Williams P, Goodie J, et al. Treating eating disorders in primary care. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Jan 15;77(2):187-95. Available at: . Accessed July 11, 2013.

  • Yager J, Devlin MJ, et al. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders. 3rd ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2006. Available at: . Accessed July 11, 2013.

  • 4/29/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Lock J, Le Grange D, Agras WS, Moye A, Bryson SW, Jo B. Randomized clinical trial comparing family-based treatment with adolescent-focused individual therapy for adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(10):1025-1032.