Can Antidepressants Like Sertraline Help Treat Anorexia?

People with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight. This fear goes far beyond a desire to be thin; sufferers of anorexia have a distorted perception of weight and their body size. They will employ extreme methods, such as food deprivation and excessive exercises, to keep taking off the pounds. These behaviors often lead them to become severely underweight and put them at risk for serious complications from malnutrition.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that living with a mental condition like anorexia can cause extreme emotional distress. Many people who suffer from anorexia also suffer from depression and anxiety. Antidepressants may be a useful tool in treating anorexia.

How Antidepressants Might Help

Many psychological symptoms related to eating disorders like anorexia can be managed with antidepressants. These types of drugs help balance brain chemicals that affect mood and emotion. They can help alleviate the intensity of emotions so people can sleep better and concentrate. They also often help increase appetite.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft and Paxil or Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta and Effexor are often used to help treat depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Gaining weight and improving nutrition is often the focus when treating anorexia, and antidepressants can help manage the mental distress that weight gain may cause in anorexia patients.

Concerns About Antidepressants

Unfortunately, while many people have success in managing their conditions with antidepressants, they're not a magical cure for anything. Antidepressants can have many serious side effects.

Some common side effects include headache, nausea, blurred vision, and diarrhea, though many of these symptoms will subside within a couple of weeks.

Studies show that antidepressants can increase the risk of suicide in some patients, especially those under the age of 24. This may sound counter-intuitive, but people who are deeply depressed are usually too immobilized by their emotions to plan suicide. Antidepressants alleviate enough emotional weight to give a person who is still depressed the motivation and clarity to take action.

For people with anorexia, doctors also will have to take into consideration any medical complications the patient may have due to the eating disorder.

A Case by Case Basis

When it comes to anorexia, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. If you are concerned about how depression, anxiety, and compulsive behavior is taking a toll on you, it may be a good idea to discuss this option with your doctor. Together, you can weigh the risks and benefits of antidepressants as part of your treatment plan.

Sources: WebMD, Eating Disorder Hope

Photo: Pixabay

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