Anorexia (anorexia nervosa) – treatment

Restoring and maintaining an appropriate body weight for age and height is only one of the main goals in the treatment of anorexia.

Other key objectives that we would like to achieve together with you:

  • the normalization of eating habits
  • the treatment of physical consequences of eating behavior and underweight
  • the treatment of accompanying psychological problems
  • the promotion of social integration

In order to treat the affected person adequately, it is usually very important to work together with specialists in psychotherapy, internal medicine, family medicine or nutritional counseling.

Psychotherapy is the first component of treatment. A good therapeutic relationship can contribute a great deal to the success of the treatment. In order to treat or prevent the physical consequences of the disease, check-ups in the family doctor’s practice are also very important. In addition, a normalized eating pattern is planned and developed together with the nutritionist.

Therapy can help to reduce anxiety, build healthy self-esteem and help the person concerned to gain weight.

Most of our patients come to our clinic because they have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder (eating attacks). However, it is not uncommon for those affected to have eating disorder symptoms that cannot be clearly classified under one of the main diagnoses mentioned. An eating disorder diagnosis can be accompanied by other psychological problems.

Therapy offered by the Center for Eating Disorders

The Clinic for Consultative Psychiatry and Psychosomatics at the USZ has had the Center for Eating Disorders (ZES) for over 20 years, with a correspondingly high level of treatment competence and quality.

Outpatient consultation

In the special consultation for eating disorders, detailed assessments, consultations and treatments are carried out. Depending on capacity, treatments are offered in-house or by colleagues in private practice who work closely with us. Therapies can be individualized according to the patient’s wishes, with the involvement of relatives or other important caregivers. Treatments are carried out according to the latest evidence-based and patient-oriented therapy standards.

Focus on eating disorders and sport

People with anorexia often have a strong urge to exercise and do a lot of sport. On the other hand, eating disorders are among the most common psychological problems and illnesses in competitive sport.

As part of the Centre for Eating Disorders, we offer specialized psychiatric-psychotherapeutic assessment, counselling and treatment for competitive athletes who suffer in particular from an eating problem and/or sports addiction.

Inpatient treatment

Our ward has 14 beds and is looked after by our interdisciplinary team of doctors, psychologists, nursing staff, nutritionists, movement, art and occupational therapists. The interdisciplinary treatment program is primarily intended for people with severe anorexia and, more rarely, severe bulimia, for whom outpatient therapy is not sufficient. Inpatient treatment is voluntary and follows preliminary outpatient consultations and a tour of the ward.

The department is a place where patients feel comfortable and can gain new experiences. Treatment should be an important step towards finding a way out of a difficult life situation. Inpatient therapy is also there to help you break away from ingrained behavior patterns in a supportive environment.

The treatment program consists of the following elements:

  • Somatic assessment and treatments
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Structured meals / meal debriefings
  • Group psychotherapy
  • Psychodidactics group therapy
  • Movement therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Cooking training
  • Work training
  • Social counseling

The inpatient stay lasts an average of 10 to 12 weeks and is divided into different phases during this time. In the first half, the focus is on regulating and normalizing meal intake. For underweight patients, the aim is to gain weight in the meantime. In the second half of the therapy, the consolidation of the successes achieved and integration into everyday life are of central importance.

Goals of inpatient treatment:

  • 3 main meals and 2 to 3 snacks
  • The primary normalization of weight

(underweight with BMI18.5 to 20kg/m2)

  • Addressing somatic and psychiatric comorbidities
  • Develop strategies that positively influence the course of the eating disorder (e.g. emotion regulation strategies)

Outpatient day clinic

The outpatient day clinic is for people with eating disorders for whom outpatient therapy is not sufficient but inpatient therapy is not necessary. Patients can participate for half or full days and spend the night at home.

More about the day clinic

Offer for persons residing outside the canton

Consultative activity at the Clinic for Internal Medicine USZ

Severely underweight patients with anorexia nervosa initially require intensive inpatient somatic treatment.

Thanks to the close cooperation with the Clinic for Internal Medicine (KIM) and other clinics of the USZ, the ZES is also able to successfully admit and treat severely ill patients with anorexia nervosa. Patients with an unstable physical situation are primarily treated in the KIM, with consultative support from our psychiatrists at the ZES. Once the patient has reached a minimum level of physical stabilization without acute vital danger, they can then be transferred to the ZES ward if necessary.

Additional offers

Guided evenings for relatives

The ZES also offers guided evenings for relatives. Various topics are presented and discussed here each month. At the same time, a close exchange with people affected in the same way is possible.

Further therapies / courses

For patients

You can either register yourself or be referred by your primary care physician, specialist.


For referrer

Simply assign your patient to us online.

University Hospital Zurich
Department of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine
Culmannstrasse 8
8091 Zurich

Tel. +41 44 255 52 80
Assign online

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