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Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a severe eating disorder that is characterised by an obsession with being thin, an irrational fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. People with anorexia are fixated on keeping their weight as low as possible, and often achieve this by engaging in unhealthy behaviours such as starving themselves, making themselves vomit after eating, and exercising excessively.

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is a complex and serious eating disorder that is characterised by severe disturbances in an individual’s eating habits, and an obsession with weight, body shape and other people’s perception of their appearance. Individuals who struggle with anorexia have an unhealthy obsession with being thin, an overwhelming fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image (often causing them to think that they are fat, despite evidence to the contrary), which results in them becoming preoccupied with keeping their weight as low as possible. In order to achieve this, people with anorexia try to dramatically reduce the amount of food that they consume, and may remove calories from their body using harmful techniques such as induced vomiting, laxative abuse and excessive exercise.

Anorexia is most common in young women between the ages of 14 and 25. However, it is important to understand that it is possible for anorexia to manifest in anyone, of any age, gender or background.

Without appropriate help, anorexia can result in a range of severe physical and psychological problems, and can even be fatal. An estimated 10% to 20% of anorexia sufferers die from the devastating effects of this disorder. At Priory, we know that comprehensive anorexia treatment can reduce the symptoms of anorexia, and promote long-term mental and physical wellbeing.

For more information on the prevalence and statistics that are associated with anorexia nervosa, you can visit our eating disorder statistics page.

At Priory, we understand that anorexia can have a devastating impact on all areas of an individual’s life and can cause a wide array of long-term problems. We also recognise that it can be particularly difficult to accept that you have anorexia, and seeking assistance can be a confusing and very daunting experience for both yourself, and those who are closest to you.

However, the good news is that anorexia nervosa is treatable and you don’t have struggle on your own; we can offer you professional advice and treatment, which is personalised according to your unique needs and personal experiences. Our team of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and other highly qualified eating disorder experts are able to deliver individually tailored anorexia treatment at our specialist hospitals and wellbeing centres, empowering you to address the causes and underlying triggers for your unhealthy eating habits, address your dysfunctional behaviours, and ultimately, improve your health, wellbeing and quality of life.

Treatment for anorexia nervosa at Priory

At Priory, we are dedicated to providing personalised anorexia nervosa treatment and therapy, gradually helping you to develop a healthier relationship with food, acquire effective strategies to help you to cope, improve your self-esteem, resolve the underlying issues that may be contributing to your anorexia, and empower you to identify anorexia triggers. Over the years, we have helped thousands of people to create the necessary changes, enabling them to challenge their anorexia and take steps towards a healthy, happy and more fulfilling life.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for anorexia

CBT is widely regarded as being a flexible and effective treatment method for a range of mental health conditions and eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa. CBT is based on the principle that eating disorders, such as anorexia, are underpinned by negative thought patterns which can compromise your efforts to make healthy dietary choices, and result in a lack of belief in your ability to overcome your eating disorder. At Priory, we use CBT to challenge and change these negative thought patterns in order to alter the associated damaging behaviours. Our CBT experts work closely with you to identify your own irrational beliefs regarding food and body image, develop an understanding of why they developed in the first place and then encourage you to replace these negative, often deeply ingrained beliefs, with more positive thought patterns.

Specialist eating disorder interventions

Our exceptional eating disorder treatment teams are also able to deliver a range of interventions that have been specifically designed to treat individuals who are struggling with an eating disorder, including anorexia nervosa. These include:

  • Dietetic input
  • Supported meals
  • Food exposure interventions
  • Body image workshops
  • Nasogastric feeding

The type and length of the anorexia treatment that you will receive at Priory, is dependent upon your individual circumstances and the severity of your condition. We are able to deliver comprehensive anorexia treatment on an outpatient, day care or inpatient (residential) basis, which is tailored according to your unique needs and the intensity of the support that you require. You can read more about these different treatment options on our approach to eating disorder treatment page.

In addition, Priory’s extensive nationwide network of hospitals and wellbeing centres mean that we are able to offer you the expert support that you need in a location that is convenient for you, and in a way that can be flexible around your work and other commitments.

Outpatient therapy package for anorexia

We are also able to offer a tailored anorexia nervosa outpatient therapy package at our wellbeing centres, that has been specifically designed to tackle anorexia nervosa. In order to allow peace of mind, our therapy package offers a set amount of one-to-one therapy sessions, certainty of price for initial treatment, discounted rates and a personalised treatment plan. A further discount is also available for any additional therapy sessions that you may require following your initial anorexia treatment package.

Priory’s outpatient therapy package for anorexia nervosa consists of 20 one-to-one therapy sessions with one of our eating disorders experts, which is the number of sessions that are recommended according to national guidelines.

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Pippa Hugo (MBChB, MRCPsych) in July 2018, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in July 2020. To view all Priory anorexia specialists, please click here.

What causes anorexia nervosa?
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What are the most common symptoms of anorexia nervosa?
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Young people and anorexia
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Anorexia nervosa FAQs
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Expert treatment teams, and environments dedicated to recovery
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Crisis care at Priory
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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding eating disorder treatment, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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