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There are several different types of eating disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), and each is categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. They are serious mental illnesses that are loosely characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders can be debilitating and can adversely affect a person’s emotions, and health, and interfere with one’s ability to adequately function in his or her daily life. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), an estimated 30 million U.S. adults will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. If left untreated, continued malnutrition that occurs with an untreated eating disorder can lead to severe short and long-term consequences. The best way to help someone with an eating disorder is to be able to recognize its warning signs and ultimately encourage them to pursue treatment.


Every individual is different, and each person will require a tailored treatment plan to ensure all nuanced needs are met. The treatment plan for an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder will be directly informed by several contributing factors, such as one’s exact diagnosis, how long he or she has been actively engaging in unhealthy eating habits, his or her personal health history, and the presence of any co-morbid disorders. Depending on one’s needs, an eating disorder treatment plan could include any combination of the following components:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Can be used to help an individual break unhealthy behavioral patterns associated with his or her eating disorder by identifying and replacing dysfunctional patterns.
  • Medications:
  • Anorexia nervosa: The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has yet to approve any medication specifically for the treatment of anorexia nervosa.
    • Bulimia nervosa: The only medication that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of bulimia nervosa is the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) known as Prozac (generically: fluoxetine).
    • Binge-eating disorder: The first medication the FDA approved as a treatment for binge-eating disorder is called Vyvanse (generically: lisdexamfetamine). Antidepressants such as SSRIs (e.g., Prozac) could be prescribed to reduce the frequency of binge eating episodes. Anticonvulsant medications, such as Topiramate, could be prescribed to reduce the frequency of bingeing episodes.
  • Nutritional counseling: To facilitate weight restoration and body-weight management.
  • Medical care and/ or medical monitoring: To minimize and mitigate possible medical complications that can arise from eating disorders.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT can benefit an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder by helping to foster self-management skills, lower stress, reduce anxiety, and learn to control destructive eating behaviors. DBT promotes acceptance and teaches individuals how to live in the present moment and cope with emotional triggers that may otherwise perpetuate unhealthy symptoms and behaviors associated with eating disorders.

The goal of treatment for an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder is to help them find a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. Although eating disorders are life-long conditions, with proper treatment and support, a person can learn to effectively manage their symptoms.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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