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Treatment for anorexia

Anorexia is a serious mental illness where people keep their body weight low by restricting their eating, purging, or excessively exercising. The way people with anorexia see themselves is often at odds with how they are seen by others and they will usually challenge the idea that they should gain weight. You can read more about anorexia here.

In most cases, anorexia can be treated in outpatient facilities. More intensive treatment in day patient and inpatient units might become necessary if the condition worsens, if your health doesn’t improve in response to outpatient treatment, or there is other high risk to your physical health.


There are lots of different talking therapies that can be used to help treat anorexia. The aims of talking therapies are to reduce risks to your physical and psychological wellbeing, encourage healthy eating, and aid your recovery by helping you to develop healthy ways of coping with the thoughts and feelings behind your eating disorder.

Therapies that might form part of the treatment for anorexia include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
  • Focal psychodynamic therapy (FPT)
  • Family interventions focused on eating disorders

You can read a bit more about what each therapy involves on our “Terms explained” page. The most useful therapy will vary from person to person and depend on circumstances. For example, family interventions are recommended as part of the treatment for children and adolescents. The therapy you’re offered should take into account your preferences and those of the people caring for you where appropriate.

Self-help and support groups

Self-help and support groups where you’re able to talk to others going through similar experiences can be useful to both sufferers and their families throughout treatment and in sustaining recovery. Please search our Helpfinder database for information about what’s available in your area. Alternatively, Beat runs online support groups for people with eating disorders.

Issue date: January 2017

Review date: January 2020

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Sources used to create this information are available by contacting Beat on 0300 123 3355 or emailing We welcome your feedback on our information resources and whether you found them helpful. Email with your comments.