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Eating disorders


Services delivered by a medical doctor specialising in mental health for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention

What is it?

A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner (i.e. doctor) who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. A psychiatrist can be a key person in coordinating and providing specialised treatment for an eating disorder.

Psychiatrists can:

  • undertake an assessment to formally diagnose various disorders
  • develop and review treatment plans that aim to treat an eating disorder
  • prescribe medication and monitor its effectiveness.

A psychiatrist will usually provide treatment for an eating disorder as part of a multidisciplinary team (with your GP and other allied health professionals).

What can someone expect?

All psychiatrists have completed medical training and additional supervised psychiatric practice. Psychiatrists are trained in the biopsychosocial (cultural) model that involves delivering treatment that covers biological, psychological and social aspects in a culturally sensitive way.

Psychiatrists can provide different types of therapy as part of someone’s treatment. It may be necessary to try several different therapies to find the one that works for you and your carer/key support. Therapies may include:

  • assessment and treatment of other mental health issues that you may be experiencing (e.g. anxiety, depression)
  • prescribing and adjusting medication
  • individual or group approaches aimed at developing self esteem and coping skills
  • specific therapeutic interventions such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT-E, CBT) and family therapy.

Depending on your needs, you may not see the psychiatrist as often as you see other health professionals. Your psychiatrist will regularly review the progress of your treatment—including reviewing your mental state and medications (if appropriate), and liaising with your GP and other members of your care team. Physical monitoring is usually completed by your GP and shared with the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist can also provide advice to family members about how they can best support you.

The psychiatrist can discuss their recommended approach with you after an initial assessment.

Medical assessment is the first recommended response to a suspected eating disorder. This is a formal assessment completed by a psychiatrist and usually involves a review of your medical observations/results and a clinical interview where you will be asked questions. By the end of assessment, the psychiatrist can provide guidance on the best treatment options and ongoing monitoring.

A psychiatrist may refer you to a specialist outpatient service to work in tandem with them. Where required, a psychiatrist may also arrange for an admission to hospital for inpatient treatment.

Psychiatrists are specialist medical doctors. You will need an initial assessment from the psychiatrist. Fees for this appointment may vary depending on the practitioner. A referral from your GP will be required to receive a Medicare rebate for psychiatric appointments. Many psychiatrists require the referral before you can book an appointment. Seeing psychiatrists in public hospitals or community health services may not incur costs.

Seeing a psychiatrist isn’t necessary to get an Eating Disorder Treatment and Management Plan (EDTMP) but will be required if more than 20 sessions of evidence-based treatment are required. It is recommended to arrange a referral to a psychiatrist early on in treatment, as there can often be a waiting list for new clients. They may be able to see you sooner if you need urgent care.

Who is this for?

A psychiatrist can help if you’re working towards eating disorder recovery goals with medical and nutrition monitoring in place, and if you’re seeking psychological support.

If you have been experiencing an eating disorder for a longer period of time, you may benefit from seeing a psychiatrist who can provide specialist assessment and advice on treatment options relating to an eating disorder and/or other mental health conditions.

For those who are seeking treatment under an EDTMP, a psychiatric (or paediatric) review of treatment to date is required before more than 20 subsidised sessions of evidence-based treatment can take place.

How can someone access it?

Your GP can make a referral to a psychiatrist. Once you have seen a psychiatrist for an initial assessment, you can schedule regular appointments with your provider.

Your GP may recommend a psychiatrist they know, or they may work with you to find and select your preferred provider. You can search for a psychiatrist with expertise in eating disorders in your area through the following portals.

    My Mental Health

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