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Self-help for anorexia nervosa

With its ability to significantly impact a person's psychological and physical health, anorexia nervosa (AN) can be an incredibly challenging mental health disorder. People with AN tend to restrict energy intake due to how they perceive their body. That food restriction combined with a fear of gaining weight usually requires professional treatment to manage symptoms. 

Anorexia nervosa self-help is a welcomed complement to an established treatment plan. Due to the risks associated with the condition, someone with AN should always consult experienced treatment providers for initial treatment and assessment. But, anorexia nervosa self-help methods can be beneficial and healing when combined with professional help or as a form of aftercare while in recovery. 

 minutes read
Last updated on 
August 31, 2023
Anorexia nervosa self-help
In this article
Anorexia nervosa self-help

What is anorexia nervosa self-help?

Anorexia nervosa self-help is a term used to describe any efforts made by a person with AN to better understand, assess, or treat their symptoms. Self-help covers a wide variety of guided and self-directed activities. Although the individual material and the process could be quite unique, AN self-help methods will all strive to decrease the impact of anorexia in your life and help you re-establish confidence and happiness. 

Some options for anorexia nervosa self-help include:1

  • Anorexia nervosa self-help books
  • Anorexia nervosa self-help groups available locally or online
  • Self-care, self-compassion, and mindfulness-based practice
  • Online or in-person self-help courses for anorexia nervosa

The last example is fascinating because some available self-help courses use a foundation of proven therapeutic interventions for AN and deliver it in a client-focused way.2,3 These systems allow the person with anorexia nervosa to progress through the program independently.

A great feature of self-help for anorexia is that options can change and evolve as symptoms improve. At any stage of treatment, there is an appropriate form of self-help to aid the individual and create wanted outcomes.

How effective is anorexia nervosa self-help?

For some people, anorexia nervosa self-help can be an effective way to improve symptoms, especially when added to a comprehensive professional treatment plan.2

One study found that a fully automated self-help platform for eating disorders effectively reduced eating disorders and their related symptoms. Interestingly, a group that included support from a therapist increased participant satisfaction with the process, but it did not improve their symptom reduction.3

Before engaging in a self-help plan for AN, it's valuable to consult an eating disorder expert to know if self-help is suitable for your symptoms and situation. Not all self-help is equal, so weigh your options to find the best fit.


Tips for anorexia self-help

The most important tip for anorexia nervosa self-help is to ensure that the self-help measures you employ are meant to improve your status and reduce your symptoms. You should avoid any options disguised as self-help but focus on tricking family members or manipulating professionals.

Self-help for anorexia nervosa will match many of the same techniques and interventions used in professional treatment. Some self-help tips for anorexia nervosa may include:1

  • Setting beneficial goals and making your well-being a priority
  • Reaching out for support when symptoms flare
  • Focusing on moderation instead of strict or rigid habits
  • Changing self-talk related to food and body image
  • Adding enjoyment and pleasurable activities to your daily routine
  • Practicing gratitude

When to seek out professional treatment for anorexia nervosa

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms related to anorexia nervosa, receiving an evaluation from an experienced professional is a great first step. With this evaluation, they can recommend an appropriate course of treatment based on your status.4

Call us to learn about remote treatment for eating disorders
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In some cases, some simple lifestyle changes paired with self-help techniques could be enough to limit symptoms. In other cases, though, an intensive course of treatment may be the best option. Like with other mental health conditions, allowing the professionals to evaluate your symptoms accurately can set you on the best path.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Caring for your mental health. National Institute of Mental Health. 
  2. Cardi, V., Albano, G., Salerno, L., Lo Coco, G., Ambwani, S., Schmidt, U., Macdonald, P., & Treasure, J. (2020). The feasibility of using guided self-help in anorexia nervosa: An analysis of drop-out from the study protocol and intervention adherence. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. 
  3. Aardoom, J. J., Dingemans, A. E., Spinhoven, P., van Ginkel, J. R., de Rooij, M., & van Furth, E. F. (2016). Web-based fully automated self-help with different levels of therapist support for individuals with eating disorder symptoms: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(6). 
  4. Resmark, G., Herpertz, S., Herpertz-Dahlmann, B., & Zeeck, A. (2019). Treatment of anorexia nervosa—new evidence-based guidelines. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(2), 153. 


Can anorexia be treated at home?

Depending on the person and their symptoms, supports, and stressors, anorexia may be treated at home. Anorexia nervosa self-help should not be considered a substitute for professional treatments delivered by qualified clinicians.

Can anorexia be treated remotely?

Anorexia and other eating disorders seem to be well-treated with remote treatments delivered by an integrated team of professionals. As long as the symptoms are mild enough to allow the person to maintain outpatient treatment, remote care for anorexia could be a great option.

Where can I find remote treatment for anorexia nervosa?

Anyone interested in accessing remote care for eating disorders should consider Within Health. The treatment team at Within can create and implement a treatment plan that spans from intake to aftercare support.

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