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The first line treatment for anorexia is usually focused on immediate weight gain, especially with those who have particularly serious conditions that require hospitalisation. In particularly serious cases, this may be done under as an involuntary hospital treatment under mental health law, where such legislation exists. In the majority of cases, however, people with anorexia are treated as outpatients, with input from physicians, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals.

A recent clinical review has suggested that psychotherapy is an effective form of treatment and can lead to restoration of weight, return of menses among female patients, and improved psychological and social functioning when compared to simple support or education programmes.[1] However, this review also noted that there are only a small number of randomised controlled trials on which to base this recommendation, and no specific type of psychotherapy seems to show any overall advantage when compared to other types. Family therapy has also been found to be an effective treatment for adolescents with anorexia[2] and in particular, a method developed at the Maudsley Hospital is widely used and found to maintain improvement over time.[3]

Drug treatments, such as SSRI or other antidepressant medication, have not found to be generally effective for anorexia,[4] although it has also been noted that there is a lack of adequate research in this area. It is common, however, for antidepressants to be prescribed, often with the intent of trying to treat the associated anxiety and depression.

There are various non-profit and community groups that offer support and advice to people who have anorexia, or are the carer of someone who does.


  1. Hay P, Bacaltchuk J, Claudino A, Ben-Tovim D, Yong PY. (2003) Individual psychotherapy in the outpatient treatment of adults with anorexia nervosa. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 4, CD003909. PMID 14583998.
  2. Lock J, Le Grange D. (2005) Family-based treatment of eating disorders. Int J Eat Disord, 37 Suppl, S64-7. PMID 15852323.
  3. Le Grange D. (2005) The Maudsley family-based treatment for adolescent anorexia nervosa. World Psychiatry, 4 (3), 142-6. PMID 16633532.
  4. Claudino AM, Hay P, Lima MS, Bacaltchuk J, Schmidt U, Treasure J. (2006) Antidepressants for anorexia nervosa. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 1, CD004365. PMID 16437485.

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