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Treatment and Self-help Strategies for Anorexia Nervosa

Living with an eating disorder can be a tough job. It is even more difficult to watch a loved one suffer from the problem. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which affects the appetite and the willingness to attain the right nutrition for a long stretch of time. In extremely critical cases, the individual suffering from Anorexia nervosa might even have to encounter a life-threatening situation and can account for the highest mortality rates.(1) Hence the treatment for Anorexia nervosa will include various elements starting from counseling to medication.

The worst part is that it often becomes really difficult to make a person suffering from Anorexia nervosa realize that they are suffering from the situation and hence they refuse to admit the fact that they need help. The resistance to eat is very difficult to break. The treatment procedure for Anorexia nervosa also happens to be a long one, where the cooperation of the patient is direly required. However, this cooperation is often not steady throughout the process of the treatment.

Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

At the very onset of the discussion of the treatment for Anorexia Nervosa, it must be mentioned that this is an all-encompassing process that comes with multiple goals. Let us take a closer look at the goals of this form of treatment for Anorexia Nervosa:

It has been seen that often patients with very low BMI attempts to reduce their weight further which can be dangerous and even life-threatening at times. Hence the first goal is to restore the bodyweight of the person to a normal healthy level.

Since Anorexia Nervosa is a condition that often originates from a certain emotional crisis, a very important goal of the treatment procedure is to treat the emotional setback which is often low self-esteem.

Anorexia Nervosa is often the offspring of a distorted trail of thinking. Yet another important objective is to address this thinking process.

Finally, the treatment aims at developing behavioral patterns of the individual that will persist and benefit the person in the long run.

The treatment methods include:

Psychotherapy for Anorexia Nervosa

Psychotherapy is often provided in the form of counseling that includes CBT or the cognitive behavioral therapy which aims to change the way a person thinks and behaves. This process of CBT often helps a patient to reconsider and even change the way they think about aspects such as body weight and food.(2) The counseling sessions help them to react better in times of stress and anxiety and even handle sudden spurts of depression.

Nutrition Counseling for Treating Anorexia Nervosa

Eating healthy is one of the main prerogatives that can keep a person healthy. This is one of the major health domains that come with a huge number of information subsets. Since Anorexia Nervosa is mainly a problem that deals with faulty eating habits and wrong choices of nutrition, the person suffering from the condition must be given a counseling session on the right type of food items that must be eaten. These sessions will also mention the right quantities of food and also the proper timings at which they must be consumed.

Medications as a Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

No conventional drugs and medicines are known to be used for the condition; however, doctors and nutritionists often advise the administration of food supplements. Additionally, the doctor might prescribe the intake of certain medicines that will help you to control anxiety and other psychiatric problems like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.(2) The use of SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors by patients suffering from depression has been heard of. However, for this medicine to be prescribed, the patient must have a minimum of 95% of the healthy BMI.

Family Therapy

Being a psychological problem, help, support, and assistance from family and the loved ones is really important. In this context, the family members and the caregivers must also be educated on the best ways to handle such patients. They need to be patient and loving in their attitude towards the affected person. The procedure of treatment can be a long one; hence, being caring and patient is required instead of forming judgment and opinions from the families and the loved ones.(3)

Hospitalization as a Treatment Method for Anorexia Nervosa

In worst cases, the affected individual might need to get hospitalized if it is a case of severe loss of weight and serious malnutrition, a stubborn refusal to eat or even a bout of a psychiatric emergency.

Self-help Strategies for Anorexia Nervosa

Since, Anorexia Nervosa is a psychological problem; individuals who are suffering from the condition must work on self-help strategies as well. It is important to remember that when a person is suffering from an acute mental health condition for a considerable time, his or her mental trauma gets reflected in their eating habits. So only when such individuals are ready to help themselves that they can make a potential difference to their condition.(2)

  • Get Professional Assistance: Individuals who are suffering from the condition and also their family and caregivers often feel that this is no problem which will require professional help. This is the first and the biggest mistake that they make. When the family or caregivers or they themselves notice a major difference in eating pattern, the first thing that they must do is see a doctor immediately.
  • Realistic Goals: Time and again it has been mentioned that the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa can be long term. There can be setbacks and occasions of relapse. In order to make steady progress in their treatment and recovery, individuals and their families must have a realistic goal. No overnight changes should be expected out of the patients or the treatment procedure.
  • Do what you Love: One of the best ways to cope with the situation is to indulge more into things that you love truly. This is one of the best ways to keep your mind off the things that you worry about too much that finally affects your eating habits.
  • Join a Support Group for Anorexia Nervosa: It will be prudent to join a support group to be able to come in contact with people who are or have probably suffered from anorexia nervosa. This is how one can come to know about their struggles and success stories of coming out of their mental states of anxiety and depression. This can be a great motivation and idea of how to handle ones condition in a more prudent manner.


At the end of the discussion, it is important to mention that Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that often results due to long-term mental abuse, ignorance and getting too much influenced by the superficial social norms. It is the duty of the parents, caregivers, and other elders to educate their children on being healthy and happy instead of just concentrating on their superficial looks.


  1. http://www.state.sc.us/dmh/anorexia/statistics.htm
  2. Read B. (2015) The difficulty with anorexia nervosa treatment: the psychological differences between anorexics’ and normal eaters’ approach to food. International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 1(4):117-119.
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11449810/

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 7, 2020

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