Mental Health

What Medications Help in Treating Eating Disorders?

What Medications Help in Treating Eating Disorders?

According to statistics, binge eating disorder is very common among young adults in the United States in comparison to anorexia and bulimia. In the last couple years, it has been treated as real medical disorder. According to the Youth Risk Behavior survey that was conducted in 2001, 35 percent of girls in their adolescence felt they were overweight. 62 percent, on the other hand, were thinking of losing weight. Though the exact cause of binge eating disorder has not been pinpointed, some brain chemicals might be considered as factors that contribute to its development. Family history and environment are two of the risk factors associated with binge eating disorder.

Persons with an eating disorder are often a challenge when it comes to diagnosing and managing them. There is so much information on therapy importance for eating disorder patients but very little information is provided on pharmacological management. Psychotherapy is still among the main treatments for eating disorders. Lack of trained therapists and lack of patients' cooperation in seeking help from therapists cause major burdens on physicians and pediatricians when it comes to treating these individuals.   

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While medication can’t really cure eating disorders, certain drugs can help control the triggers that cause bingeing and extreme obsession with food. Prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can also assist in the management of anxiety and depression, which are usually linked to binge eating disorders.    



Medication is rarely used in the treatment of anorexia as no medication has been proven effective. However, medication may sometimes be involved in the treatment. Antidepressant medications are often prescribed to assist treating the mental disorder. Fluoxetine can help in overcoming depression and maintaining healthy weight, but only after the anorexic individual has brought their eating and weight under control. Olanzapine (Zyprexa), might be prescribed if the patient does not respond to fluoxetine. Olanzapine is an antipsychotic medication often used in the treatment of schizophrenia. This drug has been known to help anorexia patients regain their weight and discourage their compulsive thinking.     



Bulimia patients react positively to antidepressants, even though they are not necessarily depressed. When fluoxetine is used together with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), it can help the patient stop bingeing and purging. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized fluoxetine as the only antidepressant for treating bulimia. Several other selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants are normally helpful in bulimia treatment, but has limited support for their use by way of scientific studies. Topiramate (topamax), an anti-seizure drug, is also used to treat bulimia. Topiramate can help bulimia patients overcome bingeing urges and minimize their obsession with eating as well as weight. However, topiramate might have upsetting side effects as compared with SSRIs. Past evidence reveals that when antidepressants are used together with psychotherapy, they can treat bulimia nervosa effectively. Medical evidence backs the use of various SSRIs such as citalopram, sertraline, and fluoxetine. Other newer antidepressants like venlafaxine are also recommended.         



Statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services estimate that around 2% of young adults in the U.S., or almost 5 million persons, suffer from binge eating disorder. Counseling and psychotherapy are the most common standard treatment for binge eating and other related eating disorders. Some health practitioners prescribe antidepressants to try to mitigate an eating disorder, but they are not scientifically proven as a treatment therefor. Yet antidepressants can assist in treating binge eating disorder specifically. SSRIs like Sertraline (Zoloft) and Fluoxetine (Prozac) can aid in minimizing binge eating and can help regulate mood in individuals who are also dealing with anxiety or depression. Antidepressants, however, will generally not do much for weight loss.    

Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, also known as Vyvanse, has been medically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating binge eating disorder in adults. Though it is not well known how the prescription works to control binge eating, it is thought to dampen the impulsive behavior that can result in bingeing. Studies by federal health regulators reveal that patients using the medication had less binge eating episodes. The FDA initially approved Vyvanse in the year 2007. This once-a-day pill works well on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In February of 2015, the FDA gave the go-ahead for the prescription to be used by individuals with compulsive overeating. However, the prescription is not sanctioned for weight reduction.

The list below shows drugs that are commonly prescribed for treating some individuals with eating disorders.

Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride):

Antidepressant SSRI; SSRIs selectively influence neurotransmitters (Chemicals that transmit signals to and from your brain) and therefore processes in the central nervous system.

It is administered orally.

Used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic attacks.

Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride):

Antidepressant SSRI; SSRIs selectively influence neurotransmitter (a chemical that transmits signal to and from your brain) processes in the central nervous system.

It is administered orally.

Used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder.

Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride):

Antidepressant SSRI; SSRIs selectively influence neurotransmitter (a chemical that transmits signals to and from your brain) mechanisms in your central nervous system.

It is administered orally.

Used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder.

Effexor (venlafaxine hydrochloride):

A distinctive type of antidepressant known as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). It is assumed to work by raising the influence of neurotransmitters in your brain.

It is administered orally.

Treats depression.

Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride):

Antidepressant (structurally distinct from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)).

It is administered orally.

Used for the treatment of major depressive disorders, it works by raising the levels of particular nerve transmitters, i.e., norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. It is also assumed that it works as a brain stimulant. The comprehensive release prescription of this medication has shown to be of much help in smoking cessation.

Luvox (fluvoxamine)


It is administered orally.

Used to treat depression and brings symptomatic relief in depression, and considerably minimizes obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms.

Despiramine/Norpramin (desipramine hydrochloride)

Tricyclic antidepressant.

It is administered orally.

Used to treat endogenous depressive illness, as well as the depressed stage of manic depression, psychotic depression, and involutional melancholia. It can also be used in the control of depression of a nonpsychotic level for example in certain situations of depressive neurosis. Individuals who have transient mood disturbances or undergoing normal grief reaction are not likely to get help by using tricyclic antidepressants. It is also known to overcome cocaine withdrawal, bulimia nervosa and panic disorder.

Imipramine/Tofranil (imipramine hydrochloride):

Tricyclic antidepressant.

It is administered orally.

Used for relieving depressive illness, panic disorder, chronic pain (suffered through migraines, diabetes, tension, headaches, cancer, and arthritis) and bulimia nervosa.

Remeron (mirtazapine):


It is administered orally.

Used mainly on depressive ailments to relieve symptoms.

Xanax (alprazolam):

An antianxiety drug (a form of central nervous system (CNS) depressant or drug that helps in slowing down the nervous system).

Administered orally.

Used for the treatment of anxiety, anxiety linked to panic disorder, and depression.

Lithium (lithium carbonate);


It is administered orally.

Used in treating acute manic experiences in individuals who having manic-depressive or bipolar spectrum disorders. Maintenance therapy has been shown to work well in preventing or lessening the occurrence of acute mania in persons suffering from bipolar disorder. It also effectively treats migraine headaches, alcoholism, and bulimia.

Naltrexone / Revia (naltrexone hydrochloride):

It is administered orally.

Used for treating alcoholism and binge-associated eating disorders. Naltrexone can also be helpful in treating persons who are "cutters" or those who do self-mutilating acts.

Alternative Medicine

Sometimes, people with eating disorders abuse herbal products and dietary supplements that are used to suppress their appetite. When weight loss supplements and herbs are used hand in hand with other prescriptions, they can cause severe side effects. Inform your doctor that you are using herbs or supplements so that he can assess whether there is any danger in taking them along with your prescription.