Eating Disorder Hotlines
The term eating disorder refers to a group of behavioral health problems that involve a combination of specific mental health and physical symptoms. These conditions and their associated symptoms can severely impact your life and negatively affect your overall well-being and functioning.
Some of the more common eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, but you can also have an eating disorder that doesn’t fall into one of these categories. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes a diagnostic category called Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder, which describes an eating disorder that causes a great deal of emotional and physical distress but does not meet the official criteria for one of the previously mentioned behavioral health disorders.1
If you think you may have an eating disorder, it’s very important to seek treatment to reclaim your life and to address underlying psychological issues. Each eating disorder has different diagnostic criteria, though certain symptoms may be shared. In general, eating disorders involve symptoms such as:2,3
- Fixating on your body weight and shape.
- Basing your self-esteem on weight or body shape.
- Being hypercritical of perceived physical imperfections.
- Dramatically changing what you eat and the way you eat, such as restricting what you eat, or binging and then purging after you eat, or eating enormous quantities of food and not purging.
- Experiencing a lack of control over problematic eating behaviors.
- Avoiding the severity of the situation, such as making light of or becoming defensive when confronted by others about your abnormal eating.
- Feeling shame and guilt about your eating habits.
- Being addicted to food such that you feel uncontrollable cravings for certain foods, such as sugar, and being unable to control your intake of these foods.
Calling an eating disorder helpline can provide you with the support, information, and guidance you need to start on the road to recovery from an eating disorder.
What to Expect from Eating Disorder Treatment
How Does a Hotline Help?
Hotlines are often the first step you take to seek help when you think you have an eating disorder. You might also call a helpline when you are looking for information about specific symptoms or problems that you (or a loved one) are facing.
Many people are nervous making the initial call because they’re not sure of what to expect on the other end of the line. However, it’s important to remember that staff members at reputable hotlines are thoroughly trained in eating disorders, know how to provide support, and can direct you to the proper treatment resources.
You might call a hotline if you are suffering from a crisis, such as feeling like life is spiraling out of control and you don’t know where to turn. You might just need a caring and objective listener to talk to who might help you see things in a different perspective.
You might also call a hotline if you think you are suffering from an eating disorder, but you’re not sure how to get help or treatment. In addition, you can call a hotline if you are concerned that someone you care about has an eating disorder and you want to know how you can best help them find beneficial resources, such as education or support groups, or to get the treatment they need. Anyone can call a helpline for free and confidential information and support.
A hotline is a reliable source of information and help if it’s reputable, provides you with comprehensive information, and has well-trained and responsive staff who offer you referrals to proper and recognized treatment and rehab centers. However, a hotline doesn’t just provide information and referrals. It also offers a compassionate ear if you simply need someone to listen to your concerns, or if you need to talk things through with someone who can give you proper guidance. Additionally, many hotlines are staffed 24/7, 365 days a year, so you can call any time of the day or night and receive assistance.
A hotline can be an especially beneficial first step toward eating disorder recovery since the relatively anonymous nature of the call can help reduce the initial embarrassment or shame you may have about discussing your struggles. A hotline can be a stepping stone in the right direction, to validate that you are making the right decision in seeking help, and to answer any questions you might have about eating disorders and eating disorder treatment. They can also clarify any further questions you may have about specific behavioral health issues and symptoms.
Eating Disorder Hotline Listings
This helpline offers support Monday–Thursday from 9 a.m.–9 p.m. EST, and Friday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. EST. You can expect to receive support, information, referrals, and guidance about treatment options for either you or your loved one. You can also contact this helpline through its online chat function, available on its website. Additionally, there is an option to send a text message if you are in crisis by texting NEDA to 741741; a trained volunteer from the Crisis Text Line will get in touch with you.
This eating disorders helpline offers treatment referrals nationwide. Its website also provides a wealth of information and resources about eating disorders and eating disorder treatment. Through its website, you can also join an online chat group where you can speak to others in your shoes to gain support, advice, and hope.
This is a hotline dedicated to serving anyone in crisis. Sometimes, people with eating disorders might feel so full of shame or self-hatred that they contemplate hurting themselves. If this is true for you, this hotline offers nationwide assistance and support from volunteers specifically trained in crisis intervention. You can talk to someone day or night about anything that’s troubling you, even if it’s not related to an eating disorder. You can also call if you need referrals to eating disorder treatment centers.
Currently serving people in the United States, the hotline operates Monday–Friday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. CST, with plans for a 24/7 hotline coming soon. Trained hotline volunteers offer encouragement to those having problems around eating or binging, support for those who “need help getting through a meal,” and assistance to family members who have concerns that their loved one might have an eating disorder.
This hotline is available to people worldwide who need a referral to an Overeaters Anonymous support meeting in their area. Contrary to popular belief, Overeaters Anonymous is not just for people who are concerned about eating too much; it is also intended for those suffering from anorexia, bulimia, food addiction, or any other type of eating disorder. If you are reluctant to attend an in-person meeting or are not geographically near one, its website also offers you the option to participate in an online- or telephone-based support group.
Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (formerly the Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association): 1-617-558-1881
This organization offers education, information, referrals to clinicians who specialize in eating disorders, support groups, and additional services for people with eating disorders in the New England area. It also offers information about nationwide treatment centers and is available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST, Monday–Friday.
The United Way’s 211.org: Call 2-1-1
The hotline is intended for anyone living in North America who is suffering from any type of crisis or who needs help locating specific resources, including information and referrals for eating disorder treatment. Available 24/7, it can offer information and referrals to treatment organizations in your area.
Crisis Textline: Text CONNECT to 741741
Available 24/7, 365 days a year, this organization helps people with eating disorders and other mental health issues by connecting callers with trained crisis volunteers who will provide confidential advice, support, and referrals if needed.
This organization offers 24/7 assistance and nationwide referrals to teens suffering from eating disorders and other mental health or crisis situations. Thursday’s Child describes its hotlines as unique in that a live person always answers the phone, as opposed to some other hotlines that might first put a person on hold. It also offers a specific helpline for anorexia and for binging and bulimia.