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Most people with anorexia can be treated as outpatients. However, at times more intensive treatment including day patient services and inpatient admission may be necessary. These typically involve following a meal plan to reach a safer weight, alongside post-meal supervision and talking therapies, either in a group setting or individually.
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Forms of therapy that have been found beneficial for some people with anorexia include:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – CBT involves identifying and challenging the cycle of negative thought patterns and maladaptive interpretations of events which can lead to negative emotions and engaging in unhelpful behaviours. This can help you to develop healthier coping strategies. For example, with anorexia, the focus is on understanding the core features maintaining the illness (such as emotional regulation, overemphasis on the importance of weight and food, and other unhelpful beliefs).
Cognitive Analytical Therapy – This technique looks at your past to understand how it has contributed to the way you think now. This can help you to identify unhealthy thoughts or behaviour patterns, and to work with the therapist to create new patterns and ways of thinking.
Family therapy – The family therapy (or Maudsley) method is one of the most recommended for young people with anorexia, and has benefits for adults too. In this approach, parents/caregivers are supported to help the person with anorexia at home – for example, through meal support and practical strategies to help the family return to a normal life. There are three stages here: 1) Weight restoration; 2) Returning control over eating; and 3) Establishing a healthy identity.
Specialist Supportive Clinical Management – SSCM is a form of therapy with two components: 1) Clinical management, which focuses on weight restoration, returning to a healthy intake, nutrition education and physical health monitoring; and 2) Supportive psychotherapy focusing on issues important to the individual. Over time, clinical management can decrease, giving more time to focus on psychotherapy.
Medication alone should not be the only treatment for anorexia. However, alongside psychological therapy, medications can be used to manage some of the complications of anorexia, such as low mood or anxiety. Some anti-psychotic medications can be helpful to some to quieten the anorexia “voices”.