Author: Sylvia Marinova, PhD student in the Genomic Stability Laboratory at BAS

Treatment of eating disorders anorexia, bulimia, overeating

Eating disorders [ref.1] are a group of psychiatric illnesses that are dangerous to both mental and physical health. Some of them, such as anorexia and bulimia, can even be fatal due to severe malnutrition or suicide. Therefore, timely treatment is key to reducing the risk of serious consequences in patients.

The purpose of this article is to give an overview of what treatment options you have if you or a loved one suffers from an eating disorder. You need to know that determining the type of initial treatment depends on factors such as the type and severity of the disease, as well as the presence of concomitant diseases.

Despite the severity of these disorders, most cases begin with outpatient treatment, which is usually based on a comprehensive approach combining psychotherapy, meetings with nutritionists, monitoring, and sometimes medication. It is good to keep in mind that if there is no improvement after such treatment, patients may need to be hospitalized at the discretion of the treating physician.

Where to start from

Food spread specialist nutritionist

Eating disorders are a reflection of a psychological problem associated with self-perception. The most difficult and painful step to dealing with them is to realize that we have a problem, to confront itand to seek help.

Undoubtedly, this is absolutely necessary to start the treatment process and a good start is to address the people we trust- telling them what we aregoing through.

If the person concerned is close to us , it is extremely important that we speak to him and express our concerns in a supportive way. This will help to encourage him to accept the problem and therefore to the treatmenthe needs.

Regardless of which position we are in, we should not underestimate the role and importance of family and loved ones in dealing with a serious problem, such as anorexia, bulimia and systemic overeating (hyperphagia).

Finding a specialist

Specialities in food waste

The key to the treatment is to find a specialist in the field of eatingdisorders . Its role will be to assess what kind of help we or our loved one needs and to monitor the response to theappointed therapy.

Since the treatment of these diseases requires complex care,it will also refer usto a team of doctors endocrinologists, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists and nutritionists and coordinate the overall treatment.

However, in most cases, patients respond well to the appointed treatment and rarely require hospitalization.

Main types of therapies

There are various variants oftherapies that can be included in the treatment plan depending on individual needs. Some examples include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy - psychopathology [ref.2] of eating disorders is inherently cognitive, as it is rooted in giving too much meaning to body shape and weight. Its effectiveness in treating numerous psychological problems, including eating disorders, is shown [ref.3]. The key understanding behind this therapyis based on the fact that feelings and emotions are closely related to our behavior.
  • Medical food therapy - it has a holistic approach and includes a training plan on proper nutrition. The main goal is to improve the patient's relationship with food and to create proper nutritional behaviour and habits . An individual dietary plan is also being built , where laboratory test results should also be takeninto account, as there may be a shortage of specific substances due to the nature of the disease.

proper nutrition in eating disorders

  • Family therapy - includes working with the whole family or in pairs. The idea is that our relationship with our loved ones is of great importance for our overall well-being. This therapy also encourages other family members to help us through the right actions. Modsley's [ref.4] method is one type of therapy that specifically targets parents who have children suffering from an eating disorder.
  • Additional therapies - there are other therapies that can have a beneficial effect in addition to treatment.  What they all have in common is that they are looking for an alternative way to deal with emotions through their expression.

Physical exercise and eating disorders

Often eating disorders are associated with the so-called " "excessive training". Giving an accurate definition of this concept is difficult, since training is seenas a "healthy" habit. This is indeed the case, but in people suffering from any eating disorder, some more intensified trends are noted, such as constant pursuit of the perfect forms, following unrealistic goals and exercising even in fatigue, injury or disease.

Yoga in eating disorders

However, physical activity could also have a positive impact [ref.5].

A good example of the effect shown in such conditions is yoga . It is an ancient practice that focuses precisely on the unity of the mind and the physical body . This is useful for people with eating disorders, since they often lose this particularconnection. For example, in episodes of uncontrollable overeating, patients ignore the body's signals of sity and despite them continue to take food.

Yoga teaches us to be aware of what is happening in and around us, as well as paying attention to how our body works and what it needs at the moment. It teaches us to love and spare it. It also helps to eliminate tension and stress and gradually helps us regain control of our lives.

In general, yoga can become complementary therapy and integrate into the main treatment, but this should be coordinated withthe attending physician and performed under the supervision of a specialist.


Read more:

Anorexia, bulimia, overeating - where eating disorders are rooted

Postpartum depression - what are the symptoms, how long it lasts and how to get out of it

What's a burnout and 5 ways to deal with it



  1. Anorexia, bulimia, overeating - where eating disorders are rooted
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders, NCBI, 2010

  3. The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses, Cognitive Therapy and Research, 2017
  4. The Maudsley family-based treatment for adolescent anorexia nervosa, NCBI, 2005

  5. How to integrate physical activity and exercise approaches into inpatient treatment for eating disorders: fifteen years of clinical experience and research, Journal of Eating Disorders, 2018


The author:

👩 🔬 Sylvia Marinova has a BSc in Molecular biology (Sofia University, Bulgaria), and a MSc in structural biology (Grenoble, France). She is currently a doctoral student at the Laboratory of Genomic Stability at IMB, BAS. Her research interests are in the field of DNA repair, microscopy and biophysics. She loves photography, painting and sports.