Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder in which an individual has a significantly low body weight due to restriction of calorie intake. Individuals with AN experience intense fear about weight gain or becoming fat, or repeatedly interfere with their weight gain. Individuals with AN also inaccurately perceive their weight or body, fail to recognize the seriousness of their weight, and/or overemphasize the impact of their weight or body on their self-worth.

There are two sub-types of Anorexia Nervosa: the restricting type (use of dieting, fasting, and/or excessive exercise to lose weight) and binge-eating/purging type (recurrent binge eating and purging through self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas).

Factors Associated with Anorexia Nervosa

  • Physiological complications: missed menstrual periods, weakened bone mineral density, unusual lab results or vital signs, constantly feeling cold, hair loss, fatigue
  • Depressed mood, social withdrawal, irritability, insomnia, reduced libido
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Fear of eating in public
  • Rigid thinking, limited social engagement and emotional expression
  • Impulsivity, substance abuse
  • Excessive exercise
  • Misuse of medications

Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa

Outpatient treatment

Outpatient treatment is appropriate for those who are medically and psychologically stable, have adequate control in managing symptoms such that they can function in their daily lives, and are generally progressing in treatment. The outpatient team typically consists of a mental health therapist, a nutritionist, and an eating disorder-informed physician. A psychiatrist may also be included in the treatment team if indicated.

Therapists help address thoughts and emotions associated with disordered eating behaviors, related/other psychological symptoms such as anxiety or depression, body image issues, and coping with stressors such as family relationships or unresolved trauma. Different forms of therapy include individual therapy, group therapy, or family therapy. Common therapy modalities used to treat AN include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Emotion-Focused Family Therapy, and Family-Based Treatment.

Nutritionists assist clients in creating a meal plan and developing a positive relationship with food. Nutritional counseling for eating disorders often include principles from Intuitive Eating and/or Health At Every Size (HAES) approaches.

Physicians monitor weight and other vital symptoms and levels to ensure one is medically stable and nourished.

Family-Based Treatment (FBT)

FBT is a form of outpatient eating disorder treatment for children and teens. Unlike other forms of outpatient care, clients do not need to have restored their weight or able to feed themselves in order to participate in FBT.  Click here to learn more about FBT.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

IOP provides more structured and frequent care for those stepping down from higher levels of care, are medically stable, and at least fairly motivated to address their eating disorder. IOP generally offers services 3 to 5 days per week for up to a few hours per day.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

PHP offers treatment for the majority of every day, but not overnight. PHP is well-suited for those who are medically stable but only partly effective in managing their symptoms such that their functioning is impaired and could benefit from daily physiological and mental monitoring. PHP is also well-suited for those who are mentally stabilized but experiencing impaired functioning and frequent disordered eating behaviors.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment provides clients with 24/7 treatment including medical care, intensive mental health support, and supervision. Residential care is appropriate for those who are not responsive to IOP/PHP treatment and could use more mental health support.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is recommended for acute, medically unstable cases that could require daily intensive medical monitoring and treatment, mental health support, and nutritional services in a hospital setting. This level of care is recommended for those with acute issues with vital signs and laboratory results, coexisting medical issues, significant regression in recovery, or suicidal clients who are unable to maintain safety.

If you or someone you know shows signs of Anorexia Nervosa, please contact today for a free consultation.