Medication for Eating Disorders in Adults

Medication may relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety that can lead to problematic eating behaviors in adults. For bulimia nervosa, medication is effective at reducing binge eating and purging—even in the absence of a mood or anxiety disorder.

The psychiatrists at NYU Langone provide consultations and medication for people with eating disorders and other coexisting mental health conditions. A medication consultation with a psychiatrist allows you to bring up any concerns or questions you may have about medications.

The most common type of medication used to treat bulimia is a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These medications work by increasing the amount of a chemical messenger in the brain called serotonin, which helps nerve cells to pass messages to one another more efficiently. This leads to improved mood and less anxiety, and it helps people with bulimia to stop eating when they feel full.

Several types of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are available. NYU Langone psychiatrists are experts in matching the right medication to your symptoms. Side effects may include nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness.

Other types of medications are also available to help people with bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia.

When you start taking medication, our psychiatrists meet with you on a regular basis to tailor the dosage and ensure the medication is working. A doctor may monitor your weight and physical symptoms when adjusting the medication dosage. How often you see your doctor depends on the underlying condition and the medication used to treat it.

Medication can be a short-term or long-term treatment option, depending on your symptoms and how you respond to treatment. Medication is often used in conjunction with behavioral therapy. Often, both can be provided by the same physician.

Our doctors recommend treatment with an antidepressant for about one year. Afterward, some people taper their medication until they no longer need it. Others may need long-term medication treatment, if their symptoms persist.

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