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Psychotherapy For Anorexia Nervosa Essay

1507 words - 7 pages

Psychotherapy for Anorexia Nervosa

What is anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that consists of self-regulated food restriction in which the person strives for thinness and also involves distortion of the way the person sees his or her own body. An anorexic person weighs less than 85% of their ideal body weight. The prevalence of eating disorders is between .5-1% of women aged 15-40 and about 1/20 of this number occurs in men. Anorexia affects all aspects of an affected person's life including emotional health, physical health, and relationships with others (Shekter-Wolfson et al 5-6). A study completed in 1996 showed that anorexics also tend to possess traits that are ...view middle of the document...

If the counselor possesses a firm, understanding perspective, the client will more likely open up and share issues with the advisor. As long as the interviewer knows that the symptoms expressed by the client are due to the eating disorder itself (in this case starvation), the counselor can grasp the problem in a tight manner. Other issues discussed between the interviewer and the client include past history of emotional disturbance, past medical history, family history, current family situation, family eating patterns, family attitudes about weight, and other personal history. Another important criterion that must be addressed is the presence or absence of past or present physical or sexual abuse because this is a significant determinant of a person possessing an eating disorder (Shekter-Wolfson et al 13).


The first step in the treatment of anorexia is to aid the client in adapting a more standardized eating pattern. A dietitian may intervene at this point to assist the affected person to adopt more healthy eating behaviors. The counselor's role is to gradually help the client begin to adopt a more normal eating style (Shekter-Wolfson et al 13). In all cases, however, there are six goals of any treatment process:

1) To treat the medical complications

2) To revive a normal state of eating

3) To provide guidance on nutrition and exercise

4) To alter distorted views through CBT

5) To optimize support by educating the family

6) To enhance self-esteem with or without medication (Anonymous 101)

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

The most common form of outpatient individual therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy focuses on the thoughts that envelop food and eating and presents a challenge to the dysfunctional beliefs on the part of the anorexic. One of the main goals of CBT is for the affected person to acquire a more self-focused and self-observant approach, so the person is asked to keep a diary of food intake and a journal of thought processes during the treatment period. There is still much more work to be done to assess whether CBT is as or more effective than other treatments of anorexia nervosa (Shekter-Wolfson et al 15).

Interpersonal therapy is an broadened form of psychotherapy in which the focus is upon the patient's relationships with others and with the therapist (Shekter-Wolfson et al 15). Many psychologists believe that many anorexic people also face shortages in psychosocial functioning may also be a factor in the lengthiness of an anorexic's condition. More research is needed to assess whether new and improved elements should be added to the treatment agenda, but the sense is that programs on sexuality or an interpersonal approach should be added to the CBT method (Herpertz-Dahlmann et al 454).

Almost every type of psychotherapy has been used on anorexic patients and all have been proven to be effective (Yager 156). However, more structured and organized...

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