How to Treat Anorexia

Understanding how to treat anorexia involves much more than getting someone back to a healthy weight. While medical treatment is necessary to help the patient regain body weight, the real battle lies in the patient's mind. Anorexia help needs to dig into the psychological roots of the disease. Successfully treating anorexia requires both the patient and family members to work together. The recovery process is long, and no one should expect overnight results. 

Providing Support
To help a patient in recovery, it is important to provide a safe and loving environment. The stress found at school or work can be overwhelming. It is generally a good idea to keep the patient home, at least until she is ready to interact with her friends. Anorexia groups can be an excellent bridge between the hospital and a return to daily life. These groups allow the patient to interact with others and learn to talk about the disease.

Proper Nutrition
Research has shown that one of the main problems facing anorexics is their misconceptions about food and their bodies. It is important to stress that the patient did not bring this illness upon himself, and that you can work together to change the patient's perception of himself.

One of the main things the patient and family should work on is developing a healthy eating plan. First, the patient must regain a healthy weight. After a healthy weight is reached, the focus shifts to changing the patient's mental state. There are many different approaches to this:

  • Family therapy encourages parents to work with a family therapist to address their relationships with each other and an anorexic child. Siblings should be included in these sessions in an age-appropriate manner. 
  • In cognitive behavioral therapy, the patient learns to understand and recognize the thoughts and feelings that lead her to become anorexic. After pinpointing the specific emotions tied to food, work can begin to change how the patient views food.
  • A reward system can be used every time the patient makes a healthy eating choice.

A Need for Control
Anorexia is all about control. The patient feels overwhelmed by the world and tries to control his appearance in response. Have the patient keep a food journal as he begins to eat healthier. The journal will help the patient maintain a feeling of control over his food intake. 

Anorexics have a warped view of their bodies. A skeletal frame looks to the anorexic like a grossly overweight body. The anorexic is terrified of gaining weight and views her normal body weight as a bad thing.

Until a breakthrough is made in this mental process, the patient will not believe what is seen in the mirror. It is not helpful to remind a patient that he is dangerously thin. This will only agitate him further. 

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