The purpose of treating people with eating disorders is to enable them to gradually develop a normal relationship with food, eating, the body and weight, and simultaneously to develop the ability to deal with any emotions, challenges, social and professional difficulties that have been significant in developing and maintaining the disorder.
In recent years, based on research results and treatment responses, extensive options have been developed for treating patients with anorexic or bulimic eating disorders.
The impact of the eating disorder on the individual’s relationship with food, eating, his/her body and weight means that the basics of eating, accepting the body as a natural part of oneself and being in the company of other people have become seriously distorted. Therefore, these basic skills have to be re-learnt. This involves extensive training to master normal eating, and long-term work on accepting oneself, one’s body, and normal weight. Accordingly, treatment comprises:
Refeeding is about meeting the person’s need for nutrition and, if necessary, increasing weight. This is accomplished by means of dietary guidance, including preparation of a dietary plan as well as specific support with regard to eating – individually, with the person’s family or in a group.
Psychological treatment may consist of different combinations of psychotherapy such as individual psychotherapy, family consultations, group therapy with different focus areas as well as education about the disease; also called psychoeducation. The purpose of psychological treatment is to provide support and guidance with a view to combating the symptoms of the eating disorder, identifying more fundamental psychological problems and promoting the development of new strategies for dealing with difficult emotions, stress and challenging mental problems.
Medication is given for severe bulimia and, in some cases, may reduce binge eating and vomiting. Medication is also used for complex physical symptoms and to treat other, simultaneous mental disorders such as depression.
Outpatient treatment generally means the person is not hospitalised for treatment. Outpatient treatment is divided into phases. The phases are adapted to the differing needs and resources the person has at different points during treatment.