Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Medications for Eating Disorders

The medicines below are used to treat eating disorders. Only the most basic problems are listed. Ask your doctor if there are any other steps you need to take. Use each of them as your doctor tells you. If you have any questions or can’t follow the package instructions, call your doctor.

These medicines don't offer a cure. They may help control certain problems caused by the disorders. This includes the psychiatric and other health conditions. These don't work for all people.

Over-the-Counter Medicines

Vitamin and mineral supplements

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D

Prescription Medicines

 

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs help balance certain brain chemicals. They treat mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. In some cases, they may help control other actions linked to some eating disorders.

You may have problems with:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleeping
  • Having sex
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in hunger
  • Risk of mood and behavior changes—may involve thoughts of suicide in some people, young adults may be at a higher risk for this
 

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Like SSRIs, these treat mood and anxiety disorders. But, they may not be the first choice for all people.

You may have problems with:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Passing urine
  • Weight gain
  • Having sex
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Risk of mood and behavior changes—may involve thoughts of suicide in some people, young adults may be at a higher risk for this
 

Other Antidepressants

  • Bupropion

This may be used if SSRIs didn't work as expected. But, it’s not used in those who have bulimia.

You may have problems with:

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in hunger
  • Risk of mood and behavior changes—may involve thoughts of suicide in some people, young adults may be at a higher risk for this
 

Atypical Antipsychotic Medicines

These may be helpful for people with anorexia.

You may have problems with:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness
  • Vision
  • Thinking clearly
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Having sex
  • Headache
 

Other Medicines

  • Topiramate

This medicine is used to treat seizures. It may help lessen the cycle of bingeing and purging linked to bulimia.

You may have problems with:

  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Thinking clearly

Over-the-Counter Medicines

 

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

You may need to take calcium and vitamin D. It's used to stop bone loss.

Special Considerations

If you are taking medicines, follow these general guidelines:

  • Take the medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Do not share your prescription medicine.
  • Medicines can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medicine, including over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills as needed.
REFERENCES:

About eating disorders. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114614/Anorexia-nervosa. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Binge eating disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T563461/Binge-eating-disorder. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Bulimia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114924/Bulimia-nervosa. Updated July 16, 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Eating disorders: About more than food. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Updated 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Suicidality in children and adolescents being treated with antidepressant medications. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm161679.htm. Updated February 5, 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 9/6/2018