A Therapist meets with her female client in her office. The client is seated on a sofa with her arms across her body as she looks visibly nervous. The Therapist is seated in a chair in front of her as she talks about what to expect from the appointment and takes notes on her clipboard.

How to Get Help for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect 30 million Americans, of all ages, genders, races, sizes, identities and socioeconomic statuses. Many of us know someone who has struggled with these serious conditions, and quite a few of us have been challenged with disordered eating and body image issues ourselves.

If your own thoughts and behaviors around food and weight have become unmanageable, knowing where and how to seek support can be difficult or overwhelming. Here are some steps and resources to get you started.

1. Reach Out to Someone You Trust About Your Eating Disorder

Acknowledging you may have a problem is a big first step, especially if you are unsure of how serious it might be. If some part of you knows that your relationship with food is interrupting your quality of life, then confide in someone. 

This can be a friend, a family member, a trusted adult or even someone from an in-person or online support group. Not only is it important to begin building your support system, but a confidant can be an invaluable resource and can play an active role in helping you to get what you need.

2. Seek a Professional Opinion About Eating Disorders

If you work with a therapist, discuss your concerns with them. You can also speak with your doctor or seek out a dietitian with expertise in eating disorders for help. The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals Foundation (iaepd) allows you to search for local certified eating disorder specialists. 

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has a call or text hotline as well as a map to find an eating disorder help from treatment providers near you. Eating Disorder Hope is another national organization with online support and resources. There are also many regional non-profits that offer similar types of assistance, in-person consultations or evaluation services.

3. Research Treatment Options

Once you have a trusted ally and some professional guidance, the next step may be to look for treatment options that would be appropriate for you. A trained eating disorder therapist or provider can help assess the level of care you may need based on things like severity and frequency of behaviors, how thoughts and behaviors around food are impacting your day-to-day life as well as medical risks. 

The options include continued outpatient care with a full team in place; an intensive outpatient program, which is typically three evenings a week of programming that includes group therapy; a five-day-per-week partial hospitalization program; a residential program with 24-hour care; or inpatient hospitalization for medical stabilization. 

Once a level of care is recommended, you need to determine whether you want/need to stay close to home or travel, and how you can pay for treatment. Many people use health insurance to cover some (or all) of the cost, so locating providers and treatment facilities that accept your insurance is a good first step. If you’re struggling to determine how to cover costs, looking into research studies or treatment scholarships is another option.

4. Make a Commitment

Once you’ve made the brave decision to pursue appropriate treatment, the most important thing you can do – again and again – is commit, and recommit to getting better. Continue to build your support system of loved ones and professionals to help bolster you in case you feel like giving up. 

List out your motivations for recovery, and post them somewhere you’ll see them every day. Practice identifying one thing each day for which you’re grateful. Accept yourself where you are at in the moment. Accept any emotions that come up during this process. Be patient with yourself, and be willing to do your best, even if your best doesn’t feel like very much on certain days. Continue to ask for help when you need it, and revisit these steps if you feel like you’re getting off track.

Eating Disorder Help is Available

Making the decision to get help for your eating disorder is one of the bravest things you can do. Always remember you don’t have to do it alone. A support system – be it friends and family, trusted professionals, community support groups, non-profits or online resources – is key. Leveraging these to create a treatment plan that you can commit to is your best path to recovery.

We’re always here to help

Eating disorders are debilitating diseases that compromise an individual’s mental and physical health. We know finding care can be tough. That’s why Walden is here for you. If you are concerned that you, or a loved one, may have an eating disorder, please reach out by completing the form on this page or email us at intake_coordinators@waldenbehavioralcare.com to connect with a member of our Welcome Center. Begin your journey to recovery today.

Rebekah DoweykoRebekah Bardwell Doweyko, LPC, CEDS-S (she/her/hers) is Assistant Vice President, Clinical Operations at Walden, where she is responsible for program development and clinical, administrative, and fiscal oversight of all of Walden’s virtual programs and ambulatory clinics. Bekah has over 20 years of eating disorder experience. Prior to joining us, Bekah was an Intensive Care Manager at the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership (Value Options, Inc.) in Rocky Hill, CT. She also founded and directed the Intuitive Eating Program (IOP) at Hollywood Pavilion Hospital in Hollywood, FL, and held various clinical positions at The Renfrew Center in Coconut Creek, FL. Bekah composed the foreword to the highly acclaimed “Maintaining Recovery from Eating Disorders” self-help book by Naomi Feigenbaum and was featured in the Emmy Nominated HBO Documentary “THIN.” Bekah earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Florida Atlantic University and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Connecticut and is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist.