Getting The Anorexia Treatment You Need And Deserve

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated June 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anorexia treatment often involves a combination of medical and psychological treatment. You may need to reach out to both a doctor and a licensed therapist to get the comprehensive care you need. It can be very important to treat anorexia as soon as possible to potentially prevent long-term organ damage and restore your physical and mental health. Although going through anorexia treatment is often very challenging, it can be worth it, and it can be possible for your relationship with food and body image to improve. You might begin by connecting with a therapist who specializes in eating disorder treatment through an online therapy platform.

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Starting anorexia treatment

If you or someone you love lives with anorexia, treatment often begins by contacting a doctor. Your doctor may conduct a complete physical, potentially including scans of your internal organs and other parts of the body. Anorexia, along with any eating disorder, can cause damage to internal organs, bones, and other body parts, even if it’s caught and stopped early, so your doctor may use various tests to evaluate any issues.

In many cases, treatment for anorexia involves getting back to a healthy weight. This process may require extensive vitamins, minerals, and medications. For some, hospitalization may be required to start gaining weight as necessary, or to treat any damage that may have been done to internal organs. If the anorexia has gone untreated for quite a while, it may be necessary to jumpstart treatment with intravenous medications and nutrients.

Aside from seeing a general medical doctor, it can be vital to seek out a psychiatrist or therapist who can help with the psychological aspects of the disorder. For many, there are underlying factors that contribute to the development of anorexia. With therapy, it can be possible to take a closer look at those factors and start to work through them. It can also be possible to investigate the thought processes that go along with the eating disorder, such as an individual seeking control or feeling unhappy with their body image. By speaking with a therapist, you may be able to start working through these feelings and replacing them with healthier thoughts.

The truth about anorexia treatment

Treatment for anorexia can be very challenging. Even if you've decided to seek treatment on your own, it's often difficult to overcome the thoughts and feelings that can come with the disorder. Knowing that your eating habits are unhealthy doesn't necessarily make it easy to change them. For those who haven't chosen to seek treatment for themselves, but have been placed into treatment by loved ones, it can be even more difficult.

The people around you – your loved ones – will probably want to help you. When it comes to anorexia, though, it can be very difficult for them to do anything. Holding you accountable can be a great first step, but it can be important for your loved ones to take care not to cross any boundaries. They might help you make sure you're eating, taking your medications, and getting to doctor or therapy appointments. For those seeking treatment on their own, this can be a great benefit that may make it a little easier to follow through with instructions, even if you're feeling conflicted about what you want to do.

For those who did not begin treatment by choice, it can be harder to follow the guidance provided to you, and it may seem like your friends and family are out to sabotage you. The truth is that they are likely trying to help you and save your life, no matter what it may feel like at the time. Anorexia can be a dangerous disorder, and your loved ones may be showing you that they care in the only way they know how—by getting you the treatment you deserve, even if it may not be what you want.

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When anorexia goes untreated

Dieting and exercising are generally healthy, and even those who are already at a healthy weight can usually benefit from a proper diet and regular exercise. When dieting and exercising start to become extreme, however, it can turn into a big problem. Excessive dieting and exercise can cause damage to your internal organs that may be irreversible. It can also cause dehydration, which may lead to even more organ damage and problems with the skin. Gastrointestinal problems can occur as well, especially if the individual engages in purging behaviors.

If left untreated for too long, it's possible to experience irreversible damage to the organs, and some organs may even shut down. In some cases, anorexia that has been left untreated for a long period can result in death. That's why it can be so crucial to get help for anyone that you think may be struggling with anorexia and to do it as quickly as possible. An extreme loss of nutrients can be dangerous and often becomes more so as symptoms of anorexia continue.

Anorexia symptoms to watch for

There are many different symptoms that you may experience or notice in someone who lives with anorexia. One of the most important things that you may want to look at can be the eating habits of the individual you suspect may have an eating disorder. This may seem obvious, but there can be plenty of different things that you should be looking at besides just if they are eating or not. You want to look at how they are eating as well. Are they extremely careful about calories and fat? Are they counting bites or cutting their food into tiny pieces? These can be signs of a possible eating disorder.

If you notice fluctuations in the individual's weight, you may want to take a closer look and talk to them as well. Those with anorexia don’t necessarily lose weight consistently and constantly. Their weight may fluctuate, or if they have a different type of eating disorder, you may notice other weight changes. Changes in weight that seem to go up and down can be cause for concern. Those who seem to eat quickly when they do eat and appear to otherwise skip meals frequently may also be exhibiting signs of disordered eating.

It can also be helpful to look at other things that don't seem to be related to eating. Examples can include:

  • Making intricate or spectacular food dishes for other people, but refusing to eat themselves

  • Taking a lot of medications or even laxatives, despite not eating very much

  • Spending a lot of time working out or seeming to be preoccupied with losing weight and burning calories

These can be signs that something else may be going on, and you might encourage anyone exhibiting these signs to reach out for professional help.

Getting help for anorexia

Whether it’s you or a loved one who may be living with anorexia, it can be vital to seek professional help as soon as possible. However, it’s often challenging for those with eating disorders to take the first step and schedule an appointment at a therapist’s office. An easier alternative may be to connect with a licensed therapist through an online therapy platform. This can empower you or your loved one to get the support they deserve from the comfort and safety of your home.

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Are you struggling with body image issues?

One of the most popular and successful types of therapy for anorexia is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which usually teaches individuals to reframe their thoughts about food, health, and body image. Studies show that anorexia treatment using CBT can change beliefs related to food and weight, as well as prevent relapse. 

Online CBT can be just as effective as in-person therapy, and it may even offer added bonuses, such as making it easier to find a therapist who specializes in eating disorder treatments. 

Takeaway

Getting treatment for anorexia and going through the recovery process can be very difficult, but it can also be very worth it. It’s generally best to begin treatment as soon as possible for the best results. Treatment usually involves both physical and psychological treatment. To find a licensed therapist who can provide the psychological side of treatment, you might start by joining an online therapy platform, which can enable you to attend therapy sessions from home.
Healing from eating disorders is possible
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