Munson Health
Medications for Eating Disorders

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by Scholten A
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Medications do not cure eating disorders, although they may help certain aspects of eating disorders, including the physical and psychiatric conditions associated with them. Not all people with eating disorders respond to these medicines.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Vitamin and mineral supplements are used to treat bone issues related to an eating disorder. These medications include:
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D

Prescription Medications

  Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs can be helpful for bulimia , especially in patients who have not responded to psychosocial treatment. The medicines have not been shown to be as effective in treating anorexia . Although, there does appear to be a benefit in patients with both anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). SSRIs have also been shown to be helpful for weight maintenance and for resolving mood and anxiety symptoms associated with both anorexia and bulimia. Improvement is usually seen 4-6 weeks after beginning treatment.
Possible side effects include:
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia or sedation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite increase or decrease
  • Risk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients; young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect

Over-the-Counter Medications

  Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
If you have anorexia, your doctor may ask you to take a calcium supplement and a multivitamin containing vitamin D . These supplements help prevent bone loss that results from inadequate nutrient intake and low hormone levels, which are seen in people who have anorexia.

Special Considerations

If you are taking medicines, follow these general guidelines:
  • Take your medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
  • Do not share them.
  • Ask what the results and side effects may be. Report them to your doctor.
  • Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medicines and herb or dietary supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you do not run out.


About eating disorders. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: . Accessed July 11, 2013.

Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: . Updated August 12, 2010. Accessed July 11, 2013.

Eating disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: . Updated 2011. Accessed July 11, 2013.

Gowers SG. Management of eating disorders in children and adolescents. Arch Dis Child. 2008;93(4):331-334. Epub 2007 Oct 9.

Hall MN, Friedman RJ, et al. Treatment of bulimia nervosa. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77(11):1588,1592. Available at:

Hunt TJ, Thienhaus O, et al. The mirror lies: body dysmorphic disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(2):217-222. Available at:

Yager J, Devlin MJ, et al. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders. 3rd ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2006. Available at: . Accessed July 11, 2013.


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