Comparison between Medication and Cognitive Behavior Approaches to Treating Eating Disorders

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Comparison between Medication and Cognitive Behavior Approaches to Treating Eating Disorders

Comparison between Medication and Cognitive Behavior Approaches to Treating Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are defined as irregular eating habits causing eating disturbances as a result of excessive or inadequate food intake thus affecting a person’s body weight. Eating disorders are caused by combination of environmental, biological and/or psychological factors such as irregular hormone functions, genetics, poor self-esteem, dysfunctional family dynamic and nutritional deficiencies. These disorders can develop at any stage in life but are common during teenage and young adulthood stages of human life. Although eating disorders are manageable and treatable, failure to treatment these disorders can lead to deadly consequences. As a result, there are different approaches that can be used to treat eating disorders such as psychotherapy, family approaches, medication, cognitive behavior among others. The purpose of the essay is to compare medication and cognitive behavior approached to treating eating disorder.

Cognitive behavior approach, also known as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is the most common approach to treating eating disorders. The approach is based on the fact that human thoughts and feelings are inter-dependent. As a result, the approach encourages people to check and control their existing thoughts and behavior patterns thus paving way for healthier behaviors. The objective of this approach to treating eating disorder is twofold: investigate and identify those thoughts causing disordered eating behavior and encourage a more positive approach to thinking. Treating eating disorder through this approach involve the four key steps.

Identifying the most appropriate processes for maintain eating disorder psychopathology is the integral element of cognitive behavior approach. This step enables a person with eating disorder to observe harmful eating patterns as well as allowing him/her to create illustrations necessary for separating the patient from problems linked with eating disorder. The next step involves incorporating different behavioral strategies aimed at checking eating disorder actions. In this step, a real-time monitoring record is created to assess various elements of the person such as food intake, behavior and emotions. The third step encompasses on-going assessment with regard to meal in take, weight and behavior trends. Lastly, the approach advocates for reviewing the treatment progress, identifying various obstacles to recovery and implementing a supporting after-treatment plan (Fairburn, 2008).

Cognitive behavior approach is referred as the most clinically evaluated and most effective approach to treating eating disorder. Besides being cheap, this approach is characterized with shorter treatment sessions lasting for utmost six hours. Unlike medication approach, cognitive behavioral approach is natural hence not associated with any health risks. The approach has a highly structured plan and sequence for therapy through face-to-face interactions between a person with eating disorder and a therapist who collaborate during the entire treatment exercise to achieve treatment goals that are achievable, measurable, realistic and specific. Other benefits associated with cognitive behavior include wide application and supported by scientific research. However, cognitive behavior approach to treating eating behavior is associated with some drawbacks. For instance, the approach has been described as ineffective for people having other complications such as mental health problems and those with learning difficulties. Also, the approach is overly prescriptive and ignores individual factors such as emotional problems, personal historical and family background.

On the other hand, medication approach is mostly preferred in case the person with eating disorder has other type of disorder. Medication is usually prescribed by professional psychiatrists or medical doctors after establishing that someone suffers from eating disorder.  The most common medication approach to treating eating disorder includes the use of anti-depressant medication. These anti-depressants work to suppress the purge cycle resulting from eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa as well as treating chemical or hormonal imbalance (Dalle, 2012). They also facilitate stabilizing weight recovery process for people suffering from eating disorders. It is important to note that anti-depressant medication does not work for everyone as people with eating disorders responds differently with some experiencing various side effects such as insomnia and anxiety. The effectiveness of anti-depressants in treating eating disorders can be enhanced by combining it with other approaches such cognitive behavior approach.

Therefore, both medication and cognitive behavior approaches to treating eating disorders can realize specific and realistic treatment goals in addition to being widely applied and supported by scientific research. However, these approaches are not effective to all people depending on other factors such as other prevailing health conditions such as mental health problems (Ann & Sheri, 2008). To ensure effective treatment of eating disorders, there is need to adopt a strategy that combines two or more approaches to treating eating disorders.



Ann MK. and Sheri LJ., (2008). The Abnormal Psychology, 13th Edition, Chapter 11

Dalle GR. (2012), Intensive Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Eating Disorders. New York, NY: Nova Publishers.

Fairburn, C.G., (2008). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Eating Disorders. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

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