Best Eating Disorder Support Groups

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Falling under a mental health classification, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Eating disorders can affect everyone, no matter their age, gender, or sexuality. Treatment for eating disorders can be an exhaustive undertaking and may even include hospitalization. Having a strong support system is a vital part of treatment, in which individuals can learn and find understanding all in one place.

Eating disorder support groups were created for that specific reason. From treatment centers to nonprofits and beyond, there are a number of organizations offering support groups to serve as a complement to more formal treatment. However, there aren’t a lot of resources that list them all in one easily accessible place. We found some of the best eating disorder support groups, whether you are in the midst of or in recovery from an eating disorder, or a loved one looking to support someone who is struggling.

Best Eating Disorder Support Groups of 2021

Best Overall : Center for Discovery


Center for Discovery

Center for Discovery

Why We Chose It: This top-notch eating disorder treatment facility brings over 20 years of experience to its free online support groups that you can attend, regardless of whether you’ve been treated there.

What We Like
  • Long history of eating disorder expertise

  • Offers other services

What We Don't Like
  • Only available via Zoom

  • Not all support groups meet weekly

Center for Discovery is a well-established and trusted residential and outpatient eating disorder treatment facility. It not only treats a wide range of eating disorders—including binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa—but also offers treatment for teens with substance abuse and/or mental health disorders. Though there are locations across the United States, each is tailored to a specific treatment program. This helps clients receive specialized care.

Center for Discovery hosts a number of virtual eating disorder support groups as well. Meetings take place on a HIPPA-compliant Zoom video conference platform, so attendees can expect privacy (and have the added option to join anonymously).

Center for Discovery offers six different support groups that are free and open to those who have been affected by eating disorders, from individuals to family members and caregivers. Some are only open to alumni of the Center, while others are open to the public. While clinicians are present, these groups are intended for peer support and serve alongside a treatment program. The time and frequency vary based on the group, but with multiple options, it's likely you'll be able to find a group that suits your needs.

Best Self-Help Support Group : Recovery Record


Recovery Record

Recovery Record

Why We Chose It: Recovery Road is an app that can be used in a self-help capacity and has capabilities such as meal logs, goal tracking, and anonymous peer support messaging.

What We Like
  • Offers robust app features

  • Ability to message clinical team through the app

What We Don't Like
  • No face-to-face meetings with peers

Recovery Record is an iPhone and Android app developed in Silicon Valley by a team of psychologists and engineers looking to bring eating disorder management into the palm of your hands. The app works in two ways: First, you can keep in touch with your treatment team between appointments through their accounts on Recovery Record Clinician (which is HIPAA compliant). For example, your nutritionist can see your food log directly from the app and can send instant feedback, while your psychologist can share clinical notes from appointments directly for you to view. If you are in the process of getting a care team, the second way to use the app is in a self-help capacity, to guide and track your progress toward recovery.

The free app offers the capability to send and receive messages and virtual gifts to other users. In addition, users can access messages from different members of their treatment team, keeping everyone involved in their care informed.

Recovery Road is packed with additional features, including a place to keep a record of mealtime and concurrent thoughts, coping tactics, and built-in charts to visualize progress. The app is available for download on the App Store or Google Play.

Best Professionally Operated Support Group : The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness


The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness

Why We Chose It: Support groups hosted by the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness are led by two licensed clinicians who report to a clinical director on a monthly basis.

What We Like
  • Groups led by multiple clinicians

  • Free, weekly groups available

What We Don't Like
  • No support groups for adolescents or teens

  • Pre-registration required

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness was founded in 2000 by Johanna Kandel. A national nonprofit, the organization serves hundreds of thousands of people around the world, providing education and intervention for people directly affected by eating disorders.

The organization offers free, in-person support groups led by two clinicians in eight states—Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas—on a weekly basis. Virtual support groups are also available to people recovering from eating disorders, along with their friends and family. There is a specific group for members of the LGBTQ+ community as well.

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness is the only national organization to directly offer support groups, and they are open to the public but completely confidential. As with other support groups, these sessions are not designed to replace treatment, instead giving participants a safe space to discuss ongoing issues related to their recovery.

Best Open Support Group : 18percent


18percent

18percent

Why We Chose It: Anyone with an internet connection can join immediately, without having to wait for a meeting time.

What We Like
  • Channels for various mental health issues

  • Opportunity for anonymity

What We Don't Like
  • Only available via Slack

  • Discussions are not led by clinicians

18percent was founded in 2007 and is a free support group that lives entirely online. This community is hosted on Slack, giving users the opportunity to talk to people from all over the world in real-time. With channels created for various mental health illnesses, including eating disorders, users can get support with a number of struggles while swapping stories and making friends. When this community started, roughly 18% of people were said to be living with a mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, that number climbed to 20.6% of U.S. adults in 2019.

Open to people of all ages, users can choose to be anonymous, as email addresses that are used to sign up are not public or shared (though because this is on Slack, it is not HIPAA-compliant).

18percent is not affiliated with any organization and is not clinician-led, though there are moderators available.

Best Closed Support Group : EDCare


EDCare

EDCare

Why We Chose It: While these support groups require pre-screening, they present the opportunity to join others in a space hosted by a world-class treatment facility.

What We Like
  • Offers additional services

  • Groups with therapeutic practices

What We Don't Like
  • Associated fees

  • No online registration

EDCare has been serving patients since 2001, with four locations treating adults 18 years and older. With both inpatient and outpatient options, EDCare solely treats individuals with eating disorders and maintains a world-class research center that collaborates with Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Four of the five support groups require pre-screening and a $30 fee, which can be paid out of pocket or sent to insurance. There's also a free group led in conjunction with the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) that does not require screening. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Enhanced (CBT-E) Group and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Group are both based on traditional therapies and meet virtually.

If you’re looking for a support group that blends in therapeutic methods, EDCare’s offerings help give participants additional coping skills to directly apply to their specific eating disorder treatment.

Best for All Ages : Alsana


Alsana

Alsana

Why We Chose It: Alsana offers no-cost groups that serve people of all ages, not just adults.

What We Like
  • No minimum age requirement

  • Offers additional services

What We Don't Like
  • Group meets during business hours

  • No drop-ins allowed

Alsana is an Eating Recovery Center that has five locations across the country. It offers inpatient and outpatient care—some of which is done virtually—for a number of eating disorders and co-occurring conditions for both adults and, at some locations, adolescents as well.

While treatment through Alsana requires an admissions process, it has offerings for the general public. If you aren’t a patient of Alsana, you can still participate in its free support group that meets online weekly. Open to all ages, this support group is led by an Alsana facilitator.

Best for Kids & Teens : National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)


National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)

Why We Chose It: The oldest eating disorder nonprofit in the country has a weekly support group for adolescents and teens.

What We Like
  • Proven history of eating disorder treatment

  • Offers additional services

What We Don't Like
  • Must pre-register

  • Group begins during West Coast school hours

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) was founded in the 1970s, making it the oldest organization dedicated to helping to bring awareness and support to the area of eating disorders. This nonprofit offers free services—including guides and support groups—to help those whose lives are affected by these conditions.

There aren’t many support groups dedicated specifically to young people who are looking for a safe space to discuss their eating disorder. Luckily, ANAD has a free virtual support group that meets on a weekly basis and is aimed at adolescents and teens.

ANAD’s support groups emphasize peer-to-peer connection and are open to the public—though you do have to register before joining a group. Besides the adolescent- and teen-specific group, there are eight other support groups serving various populations, so there is likely a support group that will work for you.

Best for Friends, Family, and Caretakers : The Eating Disorder Foundation


The Eating Disorder Foundation

The Eating Disorder Foundation

Why We Chose It: The Eating Disorder Foundation emphasizes the importance of loved ones and caregivers also getting support, with three separate groups designed specifically for them.

What We Like
  • Acknowledges that caregivers need support too

  • Offers additional virtual services

What We Don't Like
  • No friends and family groups for adolescents or teens

  • Pre-registration required

The Eating Disorder Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to being a resource for those impacted by eating disorders. Founded in 2003, it aims to prevent eating disorders through education and research offered to everyone for free.

While the Eating Disorder Foundation is physically located in Colorado, it offers virtual services in order to reach as many people as possible. These services include a number of free support groups, led online by a volunteer facilitator where peers can share their experiences and gain valuable insight surrounding eating disorders.

There are three different support groups for friends, family members, and caretakers of people who have eating disorders, including one aimed specifically at siblings of a loved one. These support groups are for adults ages 18 and older, and they serve as a place to talk through how best to support an individual struggling or in recovery from an eating disorder.

Best for Specific Disorders : Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA)


Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA)

Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA)

Why We Chose It: While other associations address eating disorders as a whole, MEDA has offerings for specific disorders, allowing for a more personalized experience.

What We Like
  • Can help individuals find treatment programs or clinicians

  • Offers groups for teens and adults age 13 and up

What We Don't Like
  • Associated fees

  • Requires a commitment of eight weeks

Located in New England, Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA) offers eating disorder support, zeroing in on a variety of specific eating disorders to help people looking for specific resources.

Not only will MEDA help people find an appropriate treatment center or provider, but it also offers support groups for those looking for additional support. It has six different support groups for all genders and ages, including those specifically suffering from binge eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and even friends and family working to support a loved one through treatment. The support groups take place in eight-week increments and do have various fees, though MEDA is in-network with some insurance companies. Financial assistance and scholarships are available on a case-by-case basis.

MEDA’s support groups meet online for participants aged 13 and older. These groups provide the chance to receive guidance from mental health professionals and peers in a safe space.

Final Verdict

Various nonprofit organizations and treatment centers offer free support groups to participants looking for extra support when undergoing treatment for an eating disorder. No matter your age, gender, or where you are in treatment, there is a support group for you. Some groups are facilitated by a professional and others are run by volunteers, but all of them offer peer-to-peer connections and a safe space to share and learn skills to assist during the treatment process.

Compare Providers

Best Eating Disorder Support Groups
Eating Disorder Support Group Why We Chose It Cost Medium
Center for Discovery Best Overall Free Video 
Recovery Record Best Self-Help Support Group Free App
The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness  Best Professionally Operated Support Group Free Video
18percent Best Open Support Group Free Chat
EDCare Best Closed Support Group $30 Video
Alsana Best for All Ages Free Video
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) Best for Kids & Teens Free Video
The Eating Disorder Foundation Best for Friends, Family, and Caretakers Free Video
Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA)  Best for Specific Disorders Various fees Video

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is an Eating Disorder Support Group?

An eating disorder support group brings together individuals and facilitators to openly discuss experiences, acting as a supplement to treatment for eating disorders. Depending on the group, those who are alumni of recovery programs or are caregivers for people undergoing treatment for an eating disorder are invited to join.

Some groups offer generalized support for all eating disorders, while others focus on specific eating disorders. Eating disorder support groups are often led by trained facilitators, such as staff from a treatment facility, but they can also operate under a volunteer facilitator.

The structure of eating disorder support groups can vary, but all aim to allow participants to share personal stories and gain coping strategies. Though scheduling varies based on the group, many support groups meet weekly or biweekly and follow a specific schedule. While there are some support groups that meet in person, many others operate on a virtual basis.

What Are the Most Common Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are an illness categorized under the umbrella of mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa are common eating disorders, with anorexia nervosa following behind, but proving to be very serious. 

It is estimated that nearly 30 million Americans will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Of the 7.8 million people who will develop an eating disorder in the future, 25 percent of those cases will occur before the age of 20.

What Causes Eating Disorders?

Experts generally agree that eating disorders do not have a single cause. They are complicated conditions that are influenced by a complex interaction of environment, psychological, and biological factors. This contributes to unhealthy relationships with food and/or weight, which disrupts eating behaviors to include actions of bingeing or avoiding intake of food, among other things.

Does Insurance Cover Eating Disorder Support Groups?

A vast majority of eating disorder support groups are free of charge, as they operate independently from traditional treatment programs. If a support group does require a fee—to help with operational costs, for example—it should be clearly stated how to pay and whether or not it can be submitted to your insurance provider.

Are Eating Disorder Support Groups Confidential?

Eating disorder support groups encourage members to be open to sharing and receiving experiences with eating disorders. Therefore, there is a high likelihood of confidentiality; clarification of this can be requested when joining a group, such as if a facilitator believes there is a clear and present danger of harm to a member of the group that requires a specific reporting protocol.

Can an Eating Disorder Support Group Help?

Though results can’t be guaranteed, support groups do offer a safe space for members to discuss any issues that may arise during or after treatment for an eating disorder. While not entirely the same, group therapy has been found to benefit people experiencing binge eating.  This provides hope for the efficacy of managing eating disorder symptoms in a group setting as one key piece of a holistic approach to treating the illness.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, help is available via the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline. Call or text (800) 931-2237. For additional mental health resources, visit our National Helpline Database.

How We Chose the Best Eating Disorder Support Groups

These eating disorder support groups were chosen based on a variety of factors, including recommendations from reputable and established eating disorder associations. We looked at a variety of treatment centers, nonprofits, and organizations that specialize in eating disorder treatment, awareness, and research, looking first at their support group offerings and what resources they recommend for individuals. We also wanted to provide a list of groups that would reach a wide group of people.

Next, we chose categories that would help serve specific groups of individuals who may need additional resources other than treatment or similar resources for eating disorders. While not all groups are hosted by a licensed facilitator, we considered groups that would offer privacy and, when preferred, anonymity, in order to provide as many options as possible for a safe and private platform to share personal experiences.

Finally, we looked at how well established each eating disorder support group was, considering factors such as frequency and accessibility.

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Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. NIMH. Mental illness. Updated January 2021.

  3. NIMH. Eating disorders. Updated November 2017.

  4. Deloitte Access Economics. The social and economic costs of eating disorders in the United States of America: a report for the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders and the Academy for Eating Disorders. June 2020

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