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June 20, 2019

What Psychiatric Support Should I Expect in Treatment for Anorexia, Bulimia, and BED?

Doctor speaking with patient

Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge-eating disorder (BED), are one of the most complex and clinically challenging groups of mental disorders. Due to the severity of eating disorders and the nature of this mental illness, professional help and psychiatric support are of paramount importance for recovery and healing.

Timely diagnosis and effective treatment interventions are known to improve the prognosis of this disease. Effective treatment for eating disorders typically requires access to both medical and psychiatric care.

Treating eating disorders

Varying levels of care are available for patients with an eating disorder. For patients who are medically stable, intensive outpatient or day treatment may be a suitable option where they can manage daily appointments with school or work. However, those who need close medical and psychological supervision, inpatient care may be the best route.

With eating disorder residential care, patients can work closely with a team of eating disorder treatment professionals, including medical doctors, registered dieticians, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, therapist, and psychiatrist.

Psychiatric support for treatment of eating disorders

Recovering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder does not merely entail eating healthy. Eating disorders are complicated illnesses that influence perceptions of body image as well as behaviors, and they are not easy to alter. Treatment of these disorders is dependent upon changing these perceptions and disordered eating behaviors.  A psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor specially trained in treating eating disorders will be enormously helpful.

Comprehensive psychiatric treatment allows patients to deal with coexisting conditions that may hinder eating disorder treatment. In some instances, inpatient psychiatric care may be compulsory to stabilize depressive symptoms before they can enjoy the full benefits of eating disorder treatment.

An experienced psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner in eating disorders will understand the complexities of common eating disorder behaviors. A vast array of psychiatric symptoms are found consistent in patients with disordered eating, including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, depression, substance use disorders, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm.

Psychological treatments for eating disorders

Even though there exist various psychological eating disorder therapies, they all typically involve engaging with a therapist. These treatments are specifically constructed to help a patient understand their thought process, coping strategies, and relationships, in order to make changes that will make everyday living easier.

Some of the main psychological treatments used to help people with eating disorders are:

  • Family therapy: family members are involved as team members to help the patient through treatment, counseling family and the patient
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy teaches the patients to recognize their negative thoughts and beliefs, and to unlearn them, replacing them with healthier coping strategies
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy: Interpersonal issues and symptomatic recovery are focused through this highly-structured and time-limited approach
  • Psycho-dynamic psychotherapy: Also known as insight-oriented therapy, this approach focuses upon self-awareness through the unraveling of the subconscious and unconscious thoughts influencing present behavior.

If a patient is severely underweight, as is typically the case in anorexia nervosa, treatment will begin with physical recovery prior to psychological treatment. Once the body is stabilized, it will be easier to focus on therapy.

Psychiatric support and the role of medications

Prescription Medicine for Psychiatric supportSeveral FDA-approved pharmaceuticals are available for treating eating disorders. These are most often SSRI(selective seretonin reuptake inhibitor) medications that help with symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD.

Incorporating medications in treatment is best done under the close supervision of a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner. Patients can benefit from this in inpatient settings as they are guided through dosages and side effects.

Prioritizing recovery

While the outcomes of eating disorder treatment are difficult to quantify, professional multidisciplinary treatment for eating disorders can significantly improve a person’s overall quality of life through the provision of resources to help recover.

Challenging old habits is tough, and relearning better coping strategies will involve trial and error. Persistence is vital during this crucial time, and you can benefit significantly with counseling and therapy.

If you are in need of professional support for an eating disorder, reach out to an eating disorder specialist to begin your recovery journey today.


1. https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/7-important-facts-about-eating-disorders
2. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders
3. https://www.yourhealthinmind.org/mental-illnesses-disorders/eating-disorders/treatment
4. https://thyblackman.com/2019/05/09/benefits-of-psychiatric-care-for-eating-disorder-treatment/

About the Author:

Sana Ahmed ImageSana Ahmed is a journalist and social media savvy content writer with extensive research, print, and on-air interview skills. She has previously worked as a staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from the London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. Her recent work has largely been focused upon mental health and addiction recovery.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed & Approved on June 20, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC
Published June 20, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com

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