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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Anorexia Nervosa: Treatment & Monitoring
      Category : Health Centers > Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Alternate Names : Anorexia

Anorexia Nervosa | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the disease?

The goals of treatment are to correct malnutrition and the underlying psychological problem. Weight gain is important. A team approach is most effective. This includes:

  • aggressive medical management
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • individual, group, and family psychotherapy
  • nutritional rehabilitation and counseling
  • Anorexia nervosa may be treated in the hospital or on an outpatient basis. The person's weight, cardiac status, and overall health are factors that influence the treatment options. Some people become so malnourished that they need to be fed through tubes to stay alive. While they are in the hospital, they will have strict rules about eating. In order to earn more privileges, they will have to eat a certain amount of food each day. They are expected to gain a certain amount of weight each week.

    A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy are often effective for people with anorexia.

  • Cognitive therapy helps individuals identify and question the reality of their beliefs about eating and their weight. The therapist would help these individuals understand that, by staying so thin, they are actually damaging their bodies.
  • Behavioral therapy is designed to help change the behaviors that keep the illness going. For instance, the person may leave the dinner table after only a few minutes. A therapist may recommend sitting at the table for several hours. This may help overcome the person's fears about food.
  • Family therapy helps family members learn about the illness. They learn what they can do to help their loved ones recover. Sometimes, family problems need to be addressed before recovery can begin.
  • Medicines are rarely used to treat anorexia. If the person has significant depression, antidepressants may be used. Sometimes, cyproheptadine is used because it can stimulate appetite. However, it isn't usually effective. People with anorexia do feel hungry. They just choose not to eat.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Antidepressants may cause drowsiness, dry mouth, and constipation.

    What happens after treatment for the disease?

    Psychotherapy usually continues for at least one year after treatment starts. Some individuals may need 5 to 6 years of therapy. People who recover from anorexia need to be aware that this illness can recur.

    How is the disease monitored?

    The individual will have regular visits with the healthcare provider. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the provider.

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    Anorexia Nervosa: Prevention & Expectations


    Author: Michael Johnson, MD
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 05/30/01

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