Psychotherapy for Curing Anorexia

A trial has been held for the first time to measure the effects of psychotherapy on women with anorexia nervosa, considered to be one of the most fatal mental disorders, in a study called the Anorexia Nervosa Treatment of OutPatients (ANTOP). The study found that women whose anorexia isn’t too severe made significant progress in treatment on an out-patient basis, and continued to make strides even after their therapy was finished.

 Anorexia a lethal mental disorder characterized by emaciation, the intense fear of weight gain, poor self-esteem, and often depression as well as lack of menstruation in women.

The treatment involved the usage of three types of Psychotherapy

  • Focal Psychodynamic Therapy– addressing the impact of negative relationships on the way the patient processes emotions. This therapy is usually offered to complex eating disorder patients ( mainly anorexia nervosa) with significant co-morbid psychiatric conditions like personality difficulties, severe and intense interpersonal difficulties. This therapy usually lasts for 40 sessions and requires motivation, endurance and time commitment. It has two core therapeutic elements: (a) helping you to develop an understanding of meaning of food for you (b) helping you to find an alternative way to express your distresses and needs there by enabling you to let go of your eating disorder symptoms. This type of therapy was found to be most successful.
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy–  It is believed that anorexia nervosa develops as a way of coping with adverse experiences often associated with developmental transitions and distressing life events. The fears and tensions that are relieved by anorectic behavior reflect deficient coping abilities in a number of areas. The primary aim of treatment is to help the patient achieve and maintain a normal pattern of eating and a normal weight.  The goals and methods for treating anorexia nervosa with a cognitive-behavioral program involve: First, suggestions on how to enlist the patient’s motivation and active collaboration in treatment. These should be applied throughout treatment. Second, introducing the steps involved in the assessment, formulation, and weight restoration phases of treatment (stage one). Third, discussion on techniques for treating the patient’s interpersonal difficulties and enhancing their social problem-solving skills (stage two). Finally, guidelines for relapse prevention are presented in stage three.

  • Standard Psychotherapy  where the patients are selected by their psychotherapists. This type of treatment involves meeting with a psychologist or other mental health provider along with others who are diagnosed with an eating disorder. It can help you address thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to your eating disorder, learn skills to manage eating disorder symptoms, and regain healthy eating patterns. In case of family based therapy, family members attend counseling sessions.

BMI had increased in all study groups (focal psychodynamic therapy 0·73 kg/m2, enhanced cognitive behaviour therapy 0·93 kg/m2, optimised treatment as usual 0·69 kg/m2). At 12-month follow-up, the mean gain in BMI had risen further (1·64 kg/m2, 1·30 kg/m2, and 1·22 kg/m2, respectively).

One thing obvious from these studies is the fact, that families can  greatly help anorexia patients in recovery. Parents and family play an active role in returning their teens to health by overseeing food and weight gain.

Do not shy away from seeking help.



The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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