Eating disorder focused cognitive behavioural therapy for anorexia nervosa

Some evidence – there is enough evidence to indicate that this can be a helpful treatment option.

You could be offered eating-disorder-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-ED) if anorexia-nervosa-focused family therapy (FT-AN) is not possible or hasn’t worked for you. CBT-ED aims to:  

  • reduce your eating disorder symptoms 
  • reduce the risks to your physical health 
  • support you to reach a healthy body weight 
  • help you to maintain healthy eating 

CBT-ED should also support you to feel more confident in managing your eating disorder related behaviours, promote healthy eating and help you to avoid doing things like purging or excessively exercising after eating. CBT-ED should be adapted for your age and any other specific needs, but generally includes support with:  

  • nutrition 
  • preventing relapses 
  • changing how you think about certain things 
  • managing your mood 
  • improving your social skills 
  • addressing concerns you might have about your body image  
  • improving your self-esteem  

CBT-ED is an individual therapy that usually involves up to 40 sessions over 40 weeks, with two sessions each week for the first 2-3 weeks and 8-12 additional brief family sessions with you and your parents or carers. 

Both family and individual sessions should include information about nutrition and the effects of not eating enough. In the family sessions you should also discuss meal plans and anything in your home life that could make it difficult for you to change your behaviour. The sessions should also give you and your parents or carers the opportunity to discuss ways of coping with any problems in your recovery. 

As part of the therapy you might be asked to record the things that you eat and drink each day and your thoughts and feelings. You might also be given homework to help you to practice what you have learned in the sessions. 

If you are attending a day centre or are admitted to hospital for treatment then you might be offered CBT-ED as part of your care. 

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

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