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Independent expert answers
on psychiatry and psychology

Eating Disorders Therapy; Help for Eating Disorders

Abstract: There are working methods for treating eating disorder, which help in most cases.

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Eating Disorders Therapy; Help for Eating Disorders

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Question(s): 
Written by: Fabio Piccini, psychotherapist, Italy.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 17 Aug 2008.

Is there any help for eating disorders through eating disorders therapy?

Answer:

In the last 10 years therapy has taken great steps forward and nowadays we can affirm that the majority of eating disorder patients, especially bulimic patients can be treated with success also with a kind of intervention of middle-short term (from 5 to 12 months of therapy). A number of less serious cases can be treated with success with a shorter intervention.

While unfortunately there is a remarkable number of patients (mostly affected by Anorexia Nervosa) whose physical and behavioural conditions make it more often necessary to turn to hospital treatment that can be done by hospitalization or day-hospital.

As to people affected by eating disorders we have not sufficient figures to affirm a probability index, but you have seen that the majority of them benefit in the long term from proposed therapies.

Unfortunately there are a number of eating disorder patients that do not seem to respond to any treatment available and show a chronic trend of this disorder.

In these cases, however, recent therapeutic approaches are useful to give these people help in crisis situations decreasing mortality index and increasing their life quality.

The factor in common, shared by almost all these forms of therapy is represented by the integration of different therapeutic approaches.

If a minority of people that suffer from slight forms of eating disorder showed they reacted successfully to every kind of treatment (family treatment, cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy / interpersonal therapy, nutritional therapy, psycho-pharmacological therapy, help groups, etc.), in the majority of cases it is necessary to adopt therapeutic models that face different aspects: biological, nutritional, psychological, behavioural, interpersonal of food pathology. Hospital therapy of more serious cases, indeed, made by multidisciplinary teams composed of doctors, nutritionists and psychologists trained in integrated eating disorder therapy.

This kind of integrated therapeutic intervention indeed provides for the use of a range of therapeutic techniques that erode progressively all maintenance factors of food pathology both from a nutritional and character and interpersonal point of view.

Patients defined as chronic are also looked after with integrated outpatient programs that aim to maintain a stability of medical and psychological parameters that are compatible with a reasonable well-being.

It is important to underline the fact that in moderate or serious eating disorder cases there is no single therapeutic approach that has demonstrated an effectiveness which is even only slightly comparable to that of the integrated approach.

Also different psychotropic drugs that each time are suggested for eating disorders pharmacological therapy, were, when used alone, less effective compared to simple psychotherapy, so this can make sense only in an integrated therapeutic program.

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