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Getting Help

Anorexia is a serious disorder and should not be left untreated. While recovery is absolutely possible, early intervention is really important, and is a key factor in helping a person to recover.

As stated, anorexia affects a person in different ways – behaviourally, cognitively, emotionally and physically, so any treatment approach needs to assess, monitor and beat all of these aspects of the disorder.

See our Treatment Guide section for detailed information. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to treatment – different approaches work for different people. The approach will be dependent on a number of factors:

  • Age of individual
  • Physical well-being
  • Length of time with an eating disorder
  • Individual’s willingness, readiness and preference for a particular approach or therapeutic treatment
  • Public or private pathway
  • Support available
  • Broadly, speaking, treatment ideally should have a multi-disciplinary approach addressing the different aspects – for example:
  • A GP/physician – physical aspects
  • A dietitian
  • A psychotherapist – emotional and behavioural aspects

Support for both the person and family is crucial. See our support services for how you can get and give support.

Recovery takes time and is not a linear process.

People often experience a couple of steps forward and a step back. Recovery is not always an obvious ‘looking better’ either. There can be major psychological changes that are part of recovery and need to happen before behaviours or weight may change and vice versa. A person’s weight may change prior to psychological changes and they may find this very difficult to deal with.

A GP can assess and monitor physical aspects of the disorder. Individual psychotherapy and family therapy can be useful in addressing the psychological problems relating to personal effectiveness and interpersonal problems that may be underlying the disorder. Nutritional counselling can increase a person’s understanding of how their diet and eating patterns are affecting them physically, mentally and socially. Support groups and other support services can help to break social isolation and encourage recovery. The time needed for from anorexia nervosa varies according to each individual.

Due to the nature of the disorder, a person with anorexia may have difficulty acknowledging the seriousness of the risks to their physical and their mental health. The prospect of recovery can be very frightening and resistance to treatment is normal. This is because the person’s mindset becomes distorted so recovery to the person does not always seem like a positive thing, on the contrary, recovery often means to them being forced to change and give up their eating disorder which is a frightening idea and one which they will resist and defend against. This may have the effect of delaying appropriate treatment and can cause severe distress for carers and family members. This is why carers need to understand the key ideas about eating disorders, so they can approach their loved one in a way that tried to reduce the fear that their loved one might feel. Carers should seek information and support for themselves to increase their understanding of the disorder and their ability to help. There are support resources available to carers here.