How To Use Behavior Therapy To Treat Anorexia

Behavior therapy tries to teach patients how their actions influence how they feel and empower them to change their lives by changing these behaviors. Therapy consists of several techniques used in tandem and all can be applied to anorexia treatment and recovery.

Role Playing uses pretend situations to teach better responses. For example, a therapist might set up a situation where an anorexic feels they are being judged as fat and offer suggestions on how thoughts might be redirected in that situation, directly addressing a distorted body image. Another could be a situation where the anorexic feels they need to purge or burn off excess calories (such as right after a meal). The therapist would use the “pretend” set-up to awaken emotions and point out alternative behaviors.

Behavior Modification
Once a negative behavior is identified, a replacement behavior is offered. The more positive behavior then has a reward attached to it. For an anorexic, it may be a reward that follows something as simple as a small weight gain or regularly meeting weekly goals for regular mealtimes.

Important to this technique is finding something that is both rewarding and can be linked to the positive behavior. Another method, called negative reinforcement, is less often used – this is the opposite technique of punishing unwanted behavior instead of only rewarding beneficial behavior.

Self Monitoring and Scheduling
It is critical that the patient “buy into” the treatment. Behavior modification works best when the anorexic is a willing participant and wants to alter their behavior. Self monitoring puts some of the power into the patient’s own hands. Doing this offers them the ability of learning a long-lasting method they can use by themselves, outside of therapy.

Scheduling goes along with self monitoring as a way to set realistic goals and record progress. The schedule is set with help from the therapist and customized to each patient. A written schedule offers a neutral way to add a kind of authority and a known standard for rewards.

Other specific techniques will be offered to individuals, depending on what particular cues lead to the unwanted behavior. Part of the process is to empower the anorexic by allowing them to understand their own behaviors better. “When you do X, this happens.”

One big advantage in behavioral therapy is removing the judgment and shame from the equation. Behaviors are positive or negative, but the person exhibiting them is not.

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

Find a Treatment Facility Near You

Click on a state below to find eating disorder treatment options that could be right for you.

The information provided on EatingDisorders.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes and we encourage all visitors to see a licensed physician if they believe that they have an eating disorder. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of EatingDisorders.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

Copyright © 2008-2017 EatingDisorders.com.
Company Information

© 2017 EatingDisorders.com. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of EatingDisorders.com's terms of service and privacy policy. The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.