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Dr Charlie Baily

Author: Dr Charlie BailyClinical Psychologist

Treatments like CBT can really help overcome the initial hurdles of getting treatment for an eating disorder like anorexia, and the right clinician will provide the right level of support and encouragement you need to embark on the recovery process.

What treatment is right for me?

There are various treatment routes that can be used effectively to help treat eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or orthorexia. Finding the right treatment will depend on a few factors including:

  1. Your BMI – those with a very low BMI (15 or less) are likely to need inpatient care. (You will need to get a referral from your GP and we always advise seeking this referral as a matter or urgency).
  2. Outpatient care – if your BMI is above 15 (and stable), attending regular therapy sessions may be an appropriate treatment route. Therapeutic approaches will depend on your specific needs.
  3. Psychiatrist assessment – it’s very common for people with an eating disorder to also have another co-current mental health condition like anxiety, OCD or depression. A full and thorough assessment, by a Psychiatrist, will enable an effective treatment plan to be put in place and they may suggest medication is useful to enable you to fully engage in therapy.

Despite the difficulties and distress an eating disorder can cause, there is often a lot of reluctance to seek help and treatment for them. Those with an eating disorder may feel that their eating disorder helps them manage other pressures or life challenges.

Even when they feel motivated and committed to recovery, the entrenched thoughts and anxiety, guilt, shame and other strong emotions that come with an eating disorder can make change slow and difficult.

Although the research is limited, factors that have been shown to contribute to successful long-term recovery from anorexia include patients’ weight at the beginning of treatment, how long they have been ill prior to treatment and their ability to regain and then maintain a healthy weight. These findings suggest the importance of seeking help for anorexia as quickly as possible and engaging as fully as possible in the nutritional as well as psychological components of treatment.

Around 75% of those with an eating disorder will recover partly or fully

When is the right time to get help?

It can take huge courage to seek help for an eating disorder. It’s common for people to think that they aren’t ‘ill enough’ or they will be fine once a period of stress has finished. If you think you may have, or be developing, an eating disorder, it is really important to seek help as early as possible. Research shows that early intervention is one of the most important factors in preventing the illness from becoming chronic.

We also know that the sooner treatment begins following an individual coming forward to ask for help, the better the outcome – it’s very common for eating disorders to become a lot worse whilst on a waiting list to start treatment1.


Regardless of the factors that may have triggered a person’s eating disorder, symptoms can become self-reinforcing and intensify quickly, taking on a life of their own. It is thus very important to seek help as early as possible.

Dr Charlie Baily - PhD, CPsychol

How can Clinical Partners help?

We believe in treating the individual

People with eating disorders have come to their struggles via many different paths. Understanding the different factors contributing to a given person’s illness is key to ensuring that the right treatment plan is put in place.

The most effective treatment plans will consider:

• Individuals’ needs and preferences
• Family, social and work circumstances
• Other mental health conditions
• Previous experiences

They will provide some flexibility in their approach, as recovery from eating disorders isn’t a standardised or linear process.

  1. The first thing that will happen when you call Clinical Partners is that you will speak to one of our triage team. They are all trained mental health experts and understand eating disorders well. Their job is to make sure that the service our clinicians can offer is right for you or your loved one. If we don’t think we can help, or that another organisation would be better, we will tell you.
  2. The triage team will ask you some questions about your concerns- your answers are completely confidential. It’s normal for some people to find this really difficult, that is fine – we help thousands of people every year so know this isn’t always easy.
  3. If you and the triage team decide that Clinical Partners is the right organisation for you, you will meet face to face with a senior Psychologist who specialises in eating disorders. This first assessment appointment is 90 minutes long and a chance for you and the Psychologist to talk in more depth about the issues you are experiencing and to determine what treatment plan would be best.
  4. The Psychologist will advise on what therapeutic approach might be best, based on your individual needs.
    This might include:
    • Therapy – for example CBT or DBT
    Family therapy
    • Nutrition advice
  5. Once you have agreed with the Psychologist that you wish to continue treatment, we will arrange for you to meet regularly with your therapist or psychologist (weekly, fortnightly or monthly appointments are available).

I can’t thank you enough – the therapy has been life changing and the therapist was so warm and kind, I never once felt ashamed or embarrassed.

Alice, Manchester

What treatment is available for eating disorders?

Treating the individual
There isn’t a one size fits all approach to treating eating disorders – the most effective treatment occurs when it is tailored to the individual and they are confident in the approach adopted.

Therapy, medication or a combination of both are the most effective ways of helping overcome an eating disorder.

1. Therapy for eating disorders

Therapy is an integral part of treating eating disorders. Among other things, it can help people:

  • Increase motivation to recover
  • Retain the energy needed for ongoing recovery
  • Increase emotional strength
  • Provide invaluable support during a possibly uncomfortable time
  • Challenge unhealthy patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours
  • Find new ways to address painful past experiences
  • Provide tools to deal with challenging circumstances
  • Identify goals and values important as they leave their eating disorders behind.

CBT focuses on the relationship between negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours. By identifying underlying unhelpful beliefs, attitudes and emotions, a psychologist or other CBT therapist works with people to develop strategies to help them adopt healthier and more constructive behaviours.

CBT has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for people with binge eating disorder. One study found that after 20 sessions of CBT, 80% of patients were no longer bingeing and of these, 60% were successfully not bingeing a year later2.

2. Medication
Many people with an eating disorder will also have another mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, that compounds their distress and affects their ability to engage successfully in eating disorder treatment.

Starting medication, for instance an antidepressant, may be necessary in order to help the individual benefit from other, psychological interventions.

2 jamanetwork.com

Download our Adult Eating Disorders Assessment Guide

Addressing the stressors and emotions that underly the eating disorder is an important treatment target. With all eating disorders, getting help as soon as possible is essential.
Dr Charlie Baily
PhD, CPsychol

Clinical Psychologist

Dr Charlie Baily is a Clinical Psychologist currently working in the private sector. He has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and is a member of The British Psychological Society and Health and Care Professions Council.


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