Can Eating Disorders Be Treated With Medications?

Woman with eating problems

With eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa, no treatment plan is ever the same because each patient is different so what might work for one might not work another patient. Generally speaking, however, treating an eating disorder typically involves psychotherapy and nutritional therapy. In some, more severe cases, however, medication might be needed depending on the needs of the patient and the kind of eating disorder being treated.

Medication for Treating Bulimia

When you discuss your options for a bulimia treatment plan with a mental health professional in Westport, CT, you might be prescribed antidepressants in the form of SSRIs or selective serotonin uptake inhibitors even if you’re not depressed. One such antidepressant is fluoxetine to help stop your from binging on food and then purging, whether combined with cognitive behavioral therapy or used alone. This drug is in fact the only FDA-approved antidepressant for treating bulimia.

Topiramate, which is an anti-seizure medication, is another drug that’s sometimes used to help bulimics suppress their binging urges and reduce their obsession with weight and eating. It can, however, cause adverse side effects when compared to fluoxetine since reports have stated that some individuals can’t tolerate the adverse effects well. These include drowsiness, diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, dizziness, weight loss, flu-like symptoms, and difficulty sleeping.

Medication for Treating Anorexia Nervosa

It’s not that common to use medications for anorexia since there isn’t enough evidence to show that they really work. Likewise, healthy eating remains the best treatment for anorexia. When medication is needed, however, fluoxetine is usually the go-to prescription. It might help those struggling with anorexia deal with depression and motivate them to maintain get their eating and weight under control since fluoxetine can boost serotonin levels in the brain. People can tolerate fluoxetine relatively well. However, it does come with some side effects such as weight gain, drowsiness, and lack of interest in sexual activity. It might likewise make some individuals feel overexcited and agitated.

In the event that fluoxetine doesn’t work, the next medication option would be olanzapine, which is an antipsychotic medication usually used for treating schizophrenia. It can help some individuals with anorexia modify their negative thought patterns and obsessive thinking. On the other hand, antipsychotics come with an increased risk of developing a movement disorder called dyskinesia and other minor side effects such as weakness, lightheadedness, drowsiness, and dizziness.

Weighing The Risks and Benefits of Medications for Treating Eating Disorders

Woman suffering from eating disorder

All medications have side effects so regardless of the drug prescribed; patients and doctors should always be on the lookout for potential adverse effects. That being said, you need to always weigh the potential benefits of a drug against its potential risks. Majority of the side effects of antidepressants such as SSRIs are minor and usually worth the potential risks, particularly when you weigh them against the possibility of not getting an eating disorder under control. If you suffer from bulimia or anorexia nervosa, discuss the pros and cons of using the medication in your treatment to determine if it’s right for you or not.