Treating Eating Disorders With Medications


Despite awareness and support groups available for eating disorders, it remains the fact that eating disorders affect a significant proportion of adolescents, teenagers, and even young adults. Sadly, the prevalence of eating disorders most especially binge eating disorders is steadily increasing and have resulted in serious and significant problems due to the associated comorbidities like depression; According to Mindia Gabichvadze, PsyD, “Symptoms may include persistent feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or emptiness.”


According to the survey in 2015, 35 percent of adolescent girls believe that they were overweight and 62 percent of the population of overweight adolescent girls was attempting to lose weight. Persons with an eating disorder often don’t seek help due to their eating disorder per se but rather on the effects that it havocs the body; therefore, these patients are often present not only in primary care physicians and psychiatrists but is commonly seen in pediatric outpatient and gastroenterology clinics.


These patients are considered challenging case both in diagnosing them as well as placing them in the treatment process. Even though, there is many research and studies on psychotherapy and counseling as beneficial to individuals with eating disorders; scientific research on pharmacological management is limited. Despite the undisputed effectivity of psychotherapy, the problem lies in the patient’s unwillingness to subject themselves to regular session continually. Also, the lack of trained therapists also burdens the primary care physician and pediatricians on how to treat these types of patients with resources that they have.


Eating disorders whether anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or non-specific eating disorders are considered as mental disorders which would be best treated through an interdisciplinary approach. In the ideal setting, the treatment team is inclusive of a medical doctor, psychiatrist or therapist, and dietitian. The involvement of family and strong support network also plays a crucial part in the recovery process. Pharmacotherapy treatments for eating disorders are as follows:



Anorexia nervosa


“Being severely underweight and malnourished, which is common in anorexia, can cause physiological changes that are known to negatively affect mood states,” says Lisa Lilenfeld, PhD, an associate professor and an expert in eating disorders.

Recent studies show that no available medicine in the market can effectively treat anorexia nervosa on its own. In fact, APA guidelines state that psychotropic medication essentially is not for the sole usage or primary treatment of anorexia nervosa. It can be considered in cases of prevention for possible relapsed in weight-restored patients, treatment of depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In the few controlled trials conducted, most have demonstrated efficacy in treating comorbid disorders like depression and compulsive disorder. Antidepressants might be helpful in the maintenance of weight gain in successful patient and anti-anxiety medications for anorexic patients who experience anxiety before meals. Several reports have published that Olanzapine (Zyprexa) is successfully used in patients with severe anorexia nervosa to stimulate their appetites and weight gain.


Bulimia nervosa


There are more pharmacological treatments of choice available for this type of eating disorder. For instance, the use of fluoxetine (Prozac) was proven with the result of 67 percent reduction of binge eating and 56 percent reduction in vomiting based on the study by Halmi, et al. Other drugs such as tricyclic antidepressants were also found effective and the same conclusion was derived in trials of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO) and buspirone. Anticonvulsant called Topiramate and anti-vomiting named Ondansetron revealed a significant reduction in binge eating and induced vomiting.


Just remember: “Psychotherapy can be very helpful in addressing not only your disordered eating, but also your overall emotional health and happiness. Indeed, the focus of psychotherapy treatment will be to address the underlying emotional and cognitive issues that result in the disordered eating,” says John M. Grohol, Psy.D.