NICE clinical guidelines
Issued: January 2004

Eating disorders: Core interventions in the treatment and management of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and related eating disorders

This is an extract from the guidance. The complete guidance is available at

Key priorities for implementation

The following recommendations have been identified as key priorities for implementation.

Anorexia nervosa

  • Most people with anorexia nervosa should be managed on an outpatient basis with psychological treatment provided by a service that is competent in giving that treatment and assessing the physical risk of people with eating disorders.

  • People with anorexia nervosa requiring inpatient treatment should be admitted to a setting that can provide the skilled implementation of refeeding with careful physical monitoring (particularly in the first few days of refeeding) in combination with psychosocial interventions.

  • Family interventions that directly address the eating disorder should be offered to children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa.

Bulimia nervosa

  • As a possible first step, patients with bulimia nervosa should be encouraged to follow an evidence-based self-help programme.

  • As an alternative or additional first step to using an evidence-based self-help programme, adults with bulimia nervosa may be offered a trial of an antidepressant drug.

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy for bulimia nervosa (CBT-BN), a specifically adapted form of CBT, should be offered to adults with bulimia nervosa. The course of treatment should be for 16 to 20 sessions over 4 to 5 months.

  • Adolescents with bulimia nervosa may be treated with CBT-BN, adapted as needed to suit their age, circumstances and level of development, and including the family as appropriate.

Atypical eating disorders

  • In the absence of evidence to guide the management of atypical eating disorders (eating disorders not otherwise specified) other than binge eating disorder, it is recommended that the clinician considers following the guidance on the treatment of the eating problem that most closely resembles the individual patient's eating disorder.

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy for binge eating disorder (CBT-BED), a specifically adapted form of CBT, should be offered to adults with binge eating disorder.

For all eating disorders

  • Family members, including siblings, should normally be included in the treatment of children and adolescents with eating disorders. Interventions may include sharing of information, advice on behavioural management and facilitating communication.