Anorexia: Care Instructions

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Anorexia is a type of eating disorder. People who have anorexia usually have a very low body weight because of an intense fear of gaining weight. They may not eat enough food because of this fear. Some people make themselves vomit to avoid weight gain. Sometimes they exercise too much. They may have a false belief about how they look (distorted body image). And they may not realize how serious their low body weight is.

When you have anorexia, your body can't get the nutrition it needs. If it isn't treated, this condition can lead to serious health problems, starvation, and even death. Treatment includes counseling. A counselor can help you change how you think about food and the way you see your body. Treatment also includes working with a doctor and a dietitian. Some people need treatment in a hospital. It may take months or years, but you can recover from anorexia.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Here are some things you can do to take care of yourself during recovery from an eating disorder.

  • Try to stick to your treatment plan. Go to any counseling sessions you have. If you can't go, or if you don't think the sessions are helping, talk to your counselor about it. And take any medicines you've been prescribed exactly as directed.
  • Work on healthy eating habits. Listen to what your counselor and dietitian say about healthy eating. You can work with them to make a plan to eat a variety of healthy foods.
  • Learn healthy ways to deal with stress. Managing stress is important in recovery. Find what works for you. You could try things like journaling, volunteering, reading, or meditating.
  • Get support from others. This might be from caring family members or friends or an eating disorders support group.
  • Take it easy on yourself. Focus on your good qualities. Don't blame yourself for your disorder. And remember that recovery takes time and that you can make progress one goal at a time.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • A person with anorexia seems depressed and is talking about suicide or has a plan to carry out suicide.
  • You have a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to for more information or to chat online.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You feel hopeless or have thoughts of hurting yourself.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have trouble sleeping.
  • You feel anxious or depressed.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.