National Eating Disorders Association

  • Antidepressants Prescription medications that are FDA-approved for the treatment of major depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are also used to treat eating disorders with the goal of alleviating the depression and anxiety that often coexist with an eating disorder.
  • Behavior Therapy (BT) A type of psychotherapy that uses principles of learning to increase the frequency of desired behaviors and/or decrease the frequency of problem behaviors. Subtypes of BT include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and exposure and response prevention (EXRP).
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT) A type of psychotherapeutic treatment that attempts to change a patient’s feelings and behaviors by changing the way the patient thinks about or perceives his/her significant life experiences. Subtypes include cognitive analytic therapy and cognitive orientation therapy.
  • Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) A type of cognitive therapy that focuses its attention on discovering how a patient’s problems have evolved and how the procedures the patient has devised to cope with them may be ineffective or even harmful. CAT is designed to enable people to gain an understanding of how the difficulties they experience may be made worse by their habitual coping mechanisms. Problems are understood in the light of a person’s personal history and life experiences. The focus is on recognizing how these coping procedures originated and how they can be adapted.
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) CBT is a goaloriented, short-term treatment that addresses the psychological, familial, and societal factors associated with eating disorders. Therapy is centered on the principle that there are both behavioral and attitudinal disturbances regarding eating, weight, and shape.
  • Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT) Since patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) have a tendency to get trapped in detail rather than seeing the big picture, and have difficulty shifting thinking among perspectives, this newly investigated brief psychotherapeutic approach targets these specific thinking styles and their role in the development and maintenance of an eating disorder. Currently, it’s usually conducted side by side with other forms of psychotherapies and has only been tested in individuals with anorexia nervosa.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) A type of behavioral therapy that views emotional deregulation as the core problem in eating disorders. It involves a structured, time-limited therapy teaching people new skills to regulate negative emotions and replace dysfunctional behavior. (See also Behavioral Therapy.)
  • Equine/Animal-assisted Therapy A treatment program in which people interact with horses and become aware of their own emotional states through the reactions of the horse to their behavior.
  • Exercise Therapy An individualized exercise plan that is written by a doctor or rehabilitation specialist, such as a clinical exercise physiologist, physical therapist, or nurse. The plan takes into account an individual’s current medical condition and provides advice for what type of exercise to perform, how hard to exercise, how long, and how many times per week.
  • Exposure with Response Prevention (EXRP) EXRP is a type of behavioral therapy effective at treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The treatment strategy emphasizes graded exposure to anxiety-provoking situations, such as feared foods, and interruption of maladaptive anxiety-reducing behaviors such as purging. (See also Behavioral Therapy.)
  • Expressive Therapy A nondrug, nonpsychotherapy form of treatment that uses the performing and/or visual arts to help people express their thoughts and emotions. Whether through dance, movement, art, drama, drawing, painting, etc., expressive therapy provides an opportunity for communication that might otherwise remain repressed.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) A nondrug and nonpsychotherapy form of treatment in which a therapist repetitively moves an object in front of the patient and asks them to focus on the item while also recalling a traumatic event. It is proposed that the act of tracking while concentrating allows a different level of processingto occur in the brain so that the patient can review the event more calmly or more completely than before.
  • Family Therapy A form of psychotherapy that involves members of an immediate or extended family. Some forms of family therapy are based on behavioral or psychodynamic principles; the most common form is based on family systems theory. This approach regards the family as the unit of treatment and emphasizes factors such as relationships and communication patterns. With eating disorders, the focus is on the eating disorder and how the disorder affects family relationships. Family therapies may also be educational and behavioral in approach.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) IPT (also called interpersonal psychotherapy) is designed to help people with eating disorders identify and address their interpersonal problems, specifically those involving grief, interpersonal role conflicts, role transitions, and interpersonal deficits. In this therapy, no emphasis is placed directly on modifying eating habits. Instead, the expectation is that the therapy enables people to change as their interpersonal functioning improves. IPT usually involves 16 to 20 hour-long, one-on-one treatment sessions over a period of 4 to 5 months.
  • Light therapy (also called phototherapy) Treatment that involves regular use of a certain spectrum of lights in a light panel or light screen that bathes the person in that light. Light therapy is also used to treat conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (seasonal depression).
  • Massage Therapy A generic term for any of a number of various types of therapeutic touch in which the practitioner massages, applies pressure to, or manipulates muscles, certain points on the body, or other soft tissues to improve health and well-being. Massage therapy is thought to relieve anxiety and depression in patients with eating disorders.
  • Maudsley Method, also called Family Based Therapy (FBT) A family-centered treatment program with three distinct phases. During the first phase parents are placed in charge of the child’s eating patterns in hopes to break the cycle of not eating, or of binge eating and purging. The second phase begins once the child’s refeeding and eating is under control with a goal of returning independent eating to the child. The goal of the third and final phase is to address the broader concerns of the child’s development.
  • Mealtime Support Therapy Treatment program developed to help patients with eating disorders eat healthfully and with less emotional upset. It generally centers around mealtime itself.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) A treatment based on a model of change, with focus on the stages of change. Stages of change represent constellations of intentions and behaviors through which individuals pass as they move from having a problem to doing something to resolve it. The stages of change move from “pre-contemplation,” in which individuals show no intention of changing, to the “action” stage, in which they are actively engaged in overcoming their problem. Transition from one stage to the next is sequential, but not linear. The aim of MET is to help individuals move from earlier stages into the action stage using cognitive and emotional strategies.
  • Movement/Dance Therapy The psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process that furthers the emotional, cognitive, social, and physical integration of the individual, according to the American Dance Therapy Association.
  • Nutritional Therapy Therapy that provides patients with information on the effects of eating disorders, techniques to avoid binge eating, and advice about making meals and eating. For example, the goals of nutrition therapy for individuals with bulimia nervosa are to help individuals maintain blood sugar levels, help individuals maintain a diet that provides them with enough nutrients, and help restore overall physical health.
  • Pharmacotherapy Treatment of a disease or condition using clinician-prescribed medications.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation A deep relaxation technique based on the simple practice of tensing or tightening one muscle group at a time followed by a relaxation phase with release of the tension. This technique has been purported to reduce symptoms associated with night eating syndrome.
  • Psychoanalysis An intensive, nondirective form of psychodynamic therapy in which the focus of treatment is exploration of a person’s mind and habitual thought patterns. It is insight-oriented, meaning that the goal of treatment is for the patient to increase understanding of the sources of his/her inner conflicts and emotional problems.
  • Psychodrama A method of psychotherapy in which patients enact the relevant events in their lives instead of simply talking about them.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy Psychodynamic theory views the human personality as developing from interactions between conscious and unconscious mental processes. The purpose of all forms of psychodynamic treatment is to bring unconscious thoughts, emotions and memories into full consciousness so that the patient can gain more control over his/her life. Whereas psychoanalysis views human behavior as resulting from drives for sex and food, psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on the human need for attachment and belonging.
  • Psychodynamic Group Therapy Psychodynamic groups are based on the same principles as individual psychodynamic therapy and aim to help people with past difficulties, relationships, and trauma, as well as current problems. The groups are typically composed of eight members plus one or two therapists.
  • Psychotherapy The treatment of mental and emotional disorders through the use of psychological techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems, with the goal being symptom relief, changes in behavior leading to improved social and vocational functioning, and personality growth.
  • Psychoeducational Therapy A treatment intended to teach people about their problem, how to treat it, and how to recognize signs of relapse so that they can get necessary treatment before their difficulty worsens or recurs. Family psychoeducation includes teaching coping strategies and problem-solving skills to families, friends, and/or caregivers to help them deal more effectively with the individual.
  • Self-guided Cognitive Behavior Therapy A modified form of cognitive behavior therapy in which a treatment manual is provided for people to proceed with treatment on their own, or with support from a nonprofessional. Guided self-help usually implies that the support person may or may not have some professional training, but is usually not a specialist in eating disorders. The important characteristics of the self-help approach are the use of a highly structured and detailed manual-based CBT, with guidance as to the appropriateness of self-help, and advice on where to seek additional help.
  • Self Psychology A type of psychoanalysis that views anorexia and bulimia as specific cases of pathology of the self. According to this viewpoint, people with eating disorders cannot rely on human beings to fulfill their self-object needs (e.g., regulation of self-esteem, calming, soothing, vitalizing). Instead, they rely on food (its consumption or avoidance) to fulfill these needs. Self psychological therapy involves helping people with eating disorders give up their pathologic preference for food as a self-object and begin to rely on human beings as self-objects, beginning with their therapist.
  • Supportive Therapy Psychotherapy that focuses on the management and resolution of current difficulties and life decisions using the patient’s strengths and available resources.
  • Telephone Therapy A type of psychotherapy provided over the telephone by a trained professional.