If you are struggling with an eating disorder, you know it is about much more than food and body image dysmorphia. Eating disorders are intricate mental health issues that typically require the help of qualified medical and psychological healthcare providers to overcome.
An estimated 28 million people in the United States alone have an eating disorder now or have had one in the past. It’s no surprise that there is a massive need for recovery resources in this area. Friends and family are essential, but they can only help so much.
If you are here to find help, and this is the first step of your journey, you should be proud! It’s not easy to admit you need help.
After all, who enjoys the feeling of helplessness? Yeah, no thanks. But you know what is one of the strongest things you can do? You guessed it: ask for help.
Eating disorder recovery is possible with inpatient treatment centers or outpatient treatment providers. We will discuss the different types of eating disorders and different treatment options and give you some resources that will help you get the help you need for yourself or a loved one.
What Is an Eating Disorder?
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Conditions, fifth edition (DSM-5), discusses and defines eating disorders. It’s important to remember that eating disorders, though they come with many physical health consequences, are ultimately a mental health issue.
The umbrella term “eating disorders” refers to various psychological illnesses that can lead to the development of unhealthy eating habits. They could begin with a fixation on food, weight, or body type.
When eating disorders are severe, they can negatively impact overall health and even be fatal if ignored. Eating disorders are the second deadliest mental illness, coming in only behind opiate addiction and overdose.
Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, or gender. There are three types of specific eating disorders that The American Psychiatric Association recognizes:
People who suffer from this eating disease, also known as bulimia, frequently binge eat until they feel uncomfortable and then vomit the food. Vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or extreme activity are common purging techniques.
Food restriction is the most common component of anorexia nervosa, sometimes known as anorexia. People who are anorexic restrict particular foods or have a daily calorie limit that is significantly lower than what is widely considered healthy.
Anorexia can be tricky because people who suffer are often given positive feedback about their bodies, at least in the beginning stages. Since, as a society, we generally put skinny bodies on a pedestal, that positive reinforcement can sometimes encourage people to continue their harmful habits.
Binge Eating Disorder
Similar to bulimia, binge eating disorder involves eating excessive quantities of food. The person does not, however, purge the food when they have a binge eating disorder. People with binge eating disorders frequently eat quickly, secretly, and large amounts.
Binge eating will occur whether or not the person is hungry. As with other eating disorders, it’s not about the food itself; it is more about the underlying emotional issues. People with binge eating disorder can easily become overweight, which sets them up for a bigger stigma than those with other eating disorders due to societal norms.
In addition, the APA recognizes every other eating disorder under a general category of Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. There are so many nuances to disordered eating that this designation makes sense.
What Resources Are Available To Help With Eating Disorders?
If you don’t want to do a blind internet search to find the best resources, don’t worry — we have curated some of the most helpful, user-friendly resources available. The treatment of eating disorders can be tricky, requiring the right advocacy and the right caregivers.
Remember that no matter your path, you’re not alone in your journey. With the rise of social media, eating disorder awareness has led to more and more online resources. There are almost TOO many resources out there! We narrowed it down for you; here are a few of our faves.
1. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
The National Eating Disorders Association acronym is the NEDA, but it might as well be the GOAT (greatest of all time). No matter what you’re looking for, you’re bound to find it on the NEDA website.
Some of the highlights of the NEDA website include a video and comprehensive list of symptoms of eating disorders — just in case you’re not 100 percent sure where your habits fall, an information page for eating disorders in men and boys, and descriptions of the six stages of recovery.
2. The Recovery Warrior Podcast
Do you have about a hundred podcasts on your “to check out” list? Yes. Do you need to add this one to that list? Also, yes.
This inspirational podcast is all about supporting those recovering from an eating disorder. Guests on the show range from experts to regular folks who want to share their stories. You will be hooked!
3. Dietician Central
Depending on where you are in your recovery journey, you might need a quality dietician or nutritionist. We all know how hard it can be to find a healthcare professional who truly cares. Let this website do the work for you!
4. The National Institute of Mental Health
Despite the many physical health ailments that can arise as a result of eating disorders, ultimately, disordered eating is a mental health issue. The NIMH website is chock-full of information and resources that can help.
Looking to see what treatments and therapies are available for eating disorders? This is the place. Other great online resources are the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP).
5. Psychology Today
You may have heard that it can be tough to find a therapist, especially in these post-Covid times. Going through an eating disorder treatment without seeking ongoing therapy is not what we recommend. You can use the Psychology Today website to search for therapists in your area that can help with several underlying causes.
The great thing is you can limit your search to specific specialties and search for therapists who accept your health insurance. Yeah, it’s that easy.
6. Your Local Bookstore or Library
Okay, maybe you haven’t picked up a book since reading To Kill a Mockingbird in 10th grade. It’s time to change that! Many books are available by people who know just what you’re going through.
Here are a few selected titles that we think are outstanding resources for those with eating disorders:
- Life Without Ed by Jeni Schaefer. A compelling memoir, Life Without Ed tells the author’s recovery story. With a little humor thrown in for good measure, Schaefer personifies her eating disorder as “Ed.” Read about her journey to recover her self-esteem. Disclaimer: You might giggle more than you would think while reading this one!
- Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN. This self-help book examines the connection between the mind and body and gives helpful advice about healing from the inside out.
- A Hunger So Wide and So Deep: A Multiracial View of Women’s Eating Problems byBecky W. Thompson. This book is fascinating if you’re looking for information about eating disorders and intersectionality. It discusses the effects of poverty, racism, and sexual abuse and how these connect to ED.
- Loving Someone with an Eating Disorder by Dana Harron, PsyD. This book is your go-to book if you know someone struggling with disordered eating and want to learn how to love them through it. Recovery is hard on the whole family, and this is a resource that will help all of you get through it.
7. Local Support Groups
For all of you “people persons” out there, you might find some solace in your friendly neighborhood support group. It might not be easy to talk to strangers about your problems, but you can rest assured that they understand. It’s also important to know that those who start as strangers may very well become close friends.
If you’re unsure where to start when finding local support groups, check online. The NEDA website is a good place to start. Other support groups with local chapters or online groups are Eating Disorder Hope and the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), a nonprofit organization with many online resources.
Another online resource is F.E.A.S.T., which provides resources for parents of adolescents with eating disorders.
8. The Relay App
Technology is a beautiful thing! There are many apps out there that can support recovery, but the Relay App offers something different. If the idea of attending an in-person support group is enough to make you want to gouge your eyes out, you’re not alone in this sentiment. Being vulnerable about your struggles can be awkward and come with shame and embarrassment.
Relay connects you with your own little cohort of like-minded people who are going through the same thing you are. The experts at Relay pair you up with those who you will connect with and who share similar struggles.
The best part is that you can be as anonymous as you want—text people in your group anytime, day or night. Help is right at your fingertips!
Once you choose to heal, you have taken the most important step in your recovery. Between internet resources like the NEDA and NIMH websites, apps like Relay, and brick-and-mortar support groups, you will make it.
Whether you’re working with outpatient health professionals or inpatient clinicians, or somewhere else entirely, we’ve got you. Keep pushing onward, and know you are not alone.