People with anorexia rarely seek or want treatment, since they usually don't acknowledge or admit they have a problem. It's often left to family members and friends to recognize the eating disorder and to urge them to get treatment.
Anorexia usually doesn't get better without treatment. People with anorexia need medical and professional help to get better. The biggest obstacle to treating anorexia is the person's unwillingness to undergo treatment.
The primary goal of therapy is to get the person to return to normal weight. In general, people with anorexia don't consider their behaviour to be abnormal or unhealthy, so it's very difficult to convince them that they have a serious problem and to get them to eat normally. If the condition is severe to the point of emaciation, hospitalization is usually necessary.
Counselling for both the individual and the family is commonly part of a treatment plan. This involves cognitive-behavioural therapy, where patients are counselled about body image issues, weight management, normal eating habits, nutrition, and the effects of starvation. Drug therapy with medications such as antidepressants is only useful for associated problems such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
People with bulimia rarely require hospitalization. They're usually treated with a combination of cognitive-behavioural therapy and medications. Antidepressants are often prescribed, which may reduce food craving and binge eating episodes. Psychotherapy is used to create awareness and to educate about eating patterns and behaviours, as well as to deal with distorted thoughts about body image and weight. Group and family therapy are commonly used to manage bulimia and are quite effective.
Some people with binge eating disorders avoid seeking treatment because they feel embarrassed. Some do not perceive binge eating disorder to be a valid medical condition and therefore do not seek medical help. Most patients with binge eating disorder are treated with psychotherapy that helps them identify binge eating triggers and learn coping strategies to avoid acting on binge eating urges.
Most people with eating disorders will get better with treatment. However, the recovery process may take a long time, and some may relapse and experience the symptoms again. It is important to get help if your symptoms return.
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