Getting Help

Deciding to get help for an eating disorder can often be anxiety provoking. To help make things easier, this section of the site provides some basic steps and information. For those who are simply looking for a psychologist, follow the quick link to finding a psychologist who works with eating disorders.

Not sure where to start or what to do? You can contact us for e-mail counselling if you're not coming right.

  1. When should I get help?
  2. What type of treatment do I need?
  3. How do I find treatment in my area?
  4. How do I know if this option is right for me?

1. When should I get help?


Getting help for an eating disorder should be as prompt as possible. This shortens the duration of the eating problem, and will help you to be able to move forward in your life sooner.

Many people with an eating disorder feel that they aren't "sick enough" to get help. However, help is beneficial for anyone with an eating problem - no matter how mild or severe.

Having experiences of unhelpful treatment in the past is also a reason many people don't get help. However, there have been changes in the treatment and understanding of eating disorders. Finding the right health professional that you feel comfortable with can also make a big difference.

2. What type of treatment do I need?

Read through the information below to find out which type of health professional or treatment programme would suit you best.

Roles of treatment professionals/institutions: Who's who in the treatment zoo

Psychologists help you work out the issues behind your eating disorder and assist you in coping with day-to-day problems. They are considered to be an essential part of getting effective treatment for your eating disorder.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in mental illnesses and can prescribe anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication etc. They may provide some form of therapy, but this is not always the case.
In-patient treatment centres involve living at the centre while you receive your treatment there. Treatment may be provided by psychiatric nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, dietitians etc. Treatment generally includes therapy, supervised meals and weight monitoring. If you are dangerously underweight, binging and purging to a dangerous degree, in a difficult situation at home or feel that things are just too chaotic, then you should consider this option.
Out-patient treatment centres involve attending the centre for therapy and monitoring etc. but continuing to live at home. Treatment may be provided by psychiatric nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, dietitians etc. This option is not always available, but if you feel that you can continue living at home but need lots of assistance, this could work for you.
Dietitians help to organise a meal plan for you and may monitor your weight. If you don't know what or how much to eat, then this could be helpful.
Psychiatric nurses are generally found in treatment centres and are nurses with additional training for dealing with mental disorders. They may provide counselling.

3. How do I find treatment in my area?

Click on the links below to find treatment options in your area.
Psychologists
Support groups
Treatment centres

Not finding information for your region or area? Contact us by clicking on the contact form and give us information on your location and the type of treatment you are trying to look for. We will make every effort to find an option for you.

4. How do I know if this option is right for me?

This is something there is no quick answer to. You might consider the following points

  • What's important to you? Think of what you would like in a treatment team or professional and see if you can find an option that meets your needs.
  • Speak to the person/organisation and find out how they work. See if you are comfortable with their approach to treatment.
  • Remember that you can change your mind - you can leave if it isn't working for you.
  • Try different approaches. If one approach doesn't work for you, then consider trying out alternatives that might be a better fit.

In terms of a psychologist, contacting the person and getting a sense of how they work is usually helpful. Not all people can work with all psychologists, so don't worry if it takes you a while to find someone you feel comfortable with. Read up more on Therapy and counselling on helpguide.org.

Other South African resources

Are you looking for other types of help? Take a look at our General Resources page for information on a variety of mental health related services available in South Africa.