When someone with an eating disorder gets to a level of acceptance of their situation where they would like to change, it is vital they consider seeking treatment. This will aim to restore regular eating patterns and deal with the psychological and emotional issues behind it.
The first point of call is usually through your GP who will check your symptoms, weight loss and eating behaviours and will determine whether you have an eating disorder. They will normally ask you some questions about your background, lifestyle and emotional state to indentify the underlying factors and feelings that might be fuelling your eating disorder. If he/she has identified your symptoms they will then begin the referral process onto specialist and therapist as needed.
Some of them are interested in learning more about your situation and finding out what services are available in your area to ensure you get appropriate treatment. If you are not happy with the help you are offered you can always ask for a second opinion. You can also contact your local Patient and Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) if you have difficulty getting the help you need.
There are a number of different treatment options for people with eating disorders and people may be offered a combination of these.
- For those at a very low weight, the first stage will focus on putting weight on, before therapy begins. This may be done as inpatient at a hospital.
- Talking therapies are often an important part of eating disorder treatments and may include: psychotherapy and counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), group therapy and occupational therapy. Other helpful therapies, although not usually available on the NHS, but might be worth considering include Neuro Lingiusitic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy. Life coaching may also be helpful for some people.
- For children and younger people, family therapy aims to address any issues which may have led to the eating disorder and support the family as a whole.
- In some cases medication may be prescribed, such as antidepressants. They will help you to manage the psychological aspects of your eating disorder. Medicines should not be the only treatments someone receives for eating disorders.
- Advice on eating from a dietician about healthy eating may help for some people. Vitamin and mineral supplements may be offered.
For some people who are of an extremely low body weight and at risk of causing significant harm to their physical health, compulsory admission may be necessary under the Mental Health Act. For someone with an anorexia or bulimia, being hospitalised can be extremely distressing and can put them out of control of the treatment they receive. Getting treatment early is essential to avoid compulsory admission.
Hospitalisation should only be part of a wider approach which addresses the reasons for the eating disorder developing. The most appropriate treatment is usually determined on age, weight and situation.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has found that more than half the people with anorexia recover after being ill for an average of five to six years. Studies have found that one in five cases of anorexia prove fatal, although the risk is much lower if a person adheres to treatment plans and stays in touch with their care providers.
As long as the organs aren’t damaged from starvation a person’s physical health can improve once they begin to eat regularly. Total recovery from bulimia and binge eating can be hard to achieve, although therapy can help a person gain more control of their eating disorder and their life.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published treatment guidelines for England and Wales; and Scotland (QIS) has produced guidelines for Scotland. These guidelines contain information about psychological therapies and treatments, medicines, medical interventions and support services, available for both children and adults.