Eating disorders can be treated, and a healthy weight can be restored. The sooner these disorders are diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome is likely to be. Because of their complexity, eating disorders require a comprehensive treatment plan involving medical care and monitoring, psychosocial interventions, nutritional counseling, and, when appropriate, medication management.
Treatment of anorexia calls for a specific program that involves three main phases: (1) restoring weight lost to severe dieting and purging, (2) treating psychological disturbances such as distortion of body image, low self-esteem, and interpersonal conflicts, and (3) achieving either long-term remission and rehabilitation or full recovery.
At the time of diagnosis, the clinician must determine whether the person is in immediate danger and requires hospitalization. Use of psychotropic medication in people with anorexia should be considered only after weight gain has been established. Certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been shown to be helpful for weight maintenance and for resolving mood and anxiety symptoms associated with anorexia.
The acute management of severe weight loss is usually provided in an inpatient hospital setting, where feeding plans address the person's medical and nutritional needs. In some cases intravenous feeding is recommended. Once malnutrition has been corrected and weight gain has begun, psychotherapy (often cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal psychotherapy) can help people with anorexia overcome low self-esteem and address distorted thought and behavior patterns. Families are sometimes included in the therapeutic process.