Medical Consultations and Medication

Family doctors (General Practitioners) are often the first professionals to identify cases of eating disorders. They are important for conducting initial assessments, contacting the relevant caretakers as well as making appropriate referrals to specialized services for treating eating disorders. During the treatment process, regular consultation with doctors is essential to assess on various aspects such as physical complications, psychological complications, needs for hospitalization, chemical deficiencies and weight and nutrition education. If you seek help from the public hospital, through the referrals made by the General Out-Patient Department, you will be directed to medical consultations at the Paediatrics and Adolescent Department if you are under 19; patients above 19 will be directed to medical consultations at the General Adult Psychiatric Department.

The pharmacological treatment (medication) of eating disorders is an adjunctive treatment to psychotherapy for most of the times. Anti-depressants such as the Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI), e.g. fluoxetine, are usually prescribed to treat eating disorders. For anorexia nervosa, pharmacological treatment is often adopted to treating patients only if they have comorbid symptoms of depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders [2]. Studies suggested that anti-depressants would not have much impact for patients with anorexia nervosa who are of very low weight, but is helpful in preventing relapse in weight-restored patients with anorexia nervosa. In contrast, for treating patients with bulimia nervosa, anti-depressants are helpful to reduce the frequency of binging, purging and also to alleviate the depressive mood [3]. All in all, the most effective treatment approach should comprise of a combination of both medication and psychological treatments, particularly in the situation where binge eating is getting more and more severe and the result obtained from receiving single treatment is far from satisfactory[4].


[2] Attia, E., & Schroeder, L. (2005). Pharmacologic treatment of anorexia nervosa: Where do we go from here? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 37, S60-S63.

[3] Pope, H. G., & Hudson, J. I. (2004). Bulimia nervosa: Persistent disorder requires equally persistent treatmenr. Current, 3(1), 12-22.

[4] Bacaltchuk, J., Hay, P. (2001). Antidepressants versus placebo for people with bulimia nervosa. Cochrane Database System Review, 4, CD003391.