Details of how—and how often—the groups run will vary, depending on how the group is organized. But the goal of each is to offer a safe space for people to discuss their experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and to help offer each other a sense of community, from which to find strength and grow.
Popular Support Groups
Whether you’re looking for free online support groups, in-person group therapy, or another way to connect with people going through similar experiences, you can most likely find an eating disorder support group that fits your needs through one of these reputable programs.
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) is one of the oldest peer support groups for people struggling with eating disorders, and today, the national organization says it’s also the largest such group in the country. 
Though not managed by mental health professionals, meetings are led by trained volunteers who have had an eating disorder in the past and are in recovery. A majority of ANAD groups are also now run online, representing a new wave of virtual eating disorder treatment.
ANAD runs a number of general eating disorder support groups, as well as some targeted at specific groups of people, including:
- Older adults
- Teens and young adults
- Members of the LGBTQ+ community
Joining these peer support groups is easy, and the meetings are completely confidential. You can visit ANAD’s website for more information.
National Alliance for Eating Disorders
The National Alliance for Eating Disorders (NAED) hosts a variety of eating disorder support groups, which are available in-person in Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and available everywhere online. 
NAED’s program is a good option if you’re looking for a clinician-led group. This setup offers all the benefits of guided professional support while maintaining the community feel that often comes from a group setting.
HealthfulChat isn’t an eating disorder support group, per se. Rather, this resource helps people with specific disorders connect to others going through similar experiences via chat room. 
The overall experience offers far less structure than typical support groups provide, but that casual approach may be helpful for some people, especially as a supplemental source of support alongside more traditional care.
The Aviary is an online support group led by the British organization Beat. 
In this fairly open-ended support group concept, there is no group leader. Instead, meetings are led by participants.
There are no set themes and no trained facilitators directing the flow of conversation. Groups are moderated to ensure basic rules are followed, but beyond this, meetings can essentially move in whatever direction the group deems fit.
Sessions are generally held weekly, though there’s no pressure to attend more than you want to. Just make sure to keep in mind that the organization is based in Great Britain, and meeting times are set accordingly.
What to Expect From Eating Disorder Support Groups
The exact mechanics of a support group will vary by organization, but the sessions are generally broken up into different sections.
One portion of the meeting may be dedicated to letting people talk about their week, while another may be more focused on a particular topic related to eating disorder recovery. Newcomers may have the chance to introduce themselves toward the beginning of the meeting, though you don’t have to speak up if it’s your first time.
Many people go to several support group sessions before feeling comfortable enough to share something—do not feel pressured to share something right away.
In fact, you don’t have to say anything at all. Many people will go to several sessions before feeling compelled or comfortable enough to share. There’s no right or wrong way to attend these meetings, as long as you’re finding them helpful.
The underlying principle of most groups is respect for others in the group.
The group will have certain rules in place, most likely centered around the type of speech or behavior that will not be accepted. You will be expected to treat other group members with respect, even if you disagree with something they say.
The underlying principle of most groups is respect, whether it’s waiting for another person to finish speaking before making a comment, or avoiding personal attacks, foul language, and other extreme reactions.
Peer-Led vs. Professional-Led Support Groups
Some support groups are peer-led, while others are led by professionals. These methods offer different benefits and may change the way a typical meeting unfolds.
As their name suggests, professional-led groups are facilitated by a mental health professional. These groups are frequently more structured—though they don’t have to be. The leader will often set a topic, or lead the group through certain exercises. They may also take a more passive role, and simply facilitate the conversation as it evolves.
On the other hand, peer-led groups are guided by individuals who are not medical professionals, though most have some training in how to run a support group. Generally, this means they help facilitate conversation, though sometimes peer-led groups are also more structured or involve specific topics.
Peer group leaders also commonly come from within the eating disorder community, having previously struggled with their own condition. This can offer them a different perspective and give a different feel to peer-led support groups.
Virtual vs. In-person Support Groups
In this digital age, therapy has become more accessible than ever before, including through the emerging trend of virtual support groups. But the new-age treatment isn’t for everyone, and in-person support groups remain a popular option.
Happily, research has shown that online treatment can offer the same quality of care as in-person meetings in many cases, so the type of program you choose is largely up to personal preference.
Online Support Groups
The biggest advantages of virtual support groups are the convenience and availability offered by the method.
Getting help from home—or anywhere with an internet connection—means easier access to care for those with mobility issues or unreliable transportation.
Relying on an online connection also opens up options for people who may not live close to in-person meeting sites. And the concept extends possibilities for everyone across the country and the globe, allowing people to access programs being run from anywhere.
In-Person Support Groups
For just as many reasons, people prefer in-person support.
Some people may feel that it’s easier to connect to others face to face. The in-person aspect may make it easier for them to open up about serious or painful experiences. The physical act of getting out of the house and changing their environment can also benefit some people. And an in-person meeting may give someone the chance to meet other like-minded people who live in their community, a frequent foundation of friendship.
Regardless of the type of group you choose, eating disorder support groups may be an important part of your recovery journey. Trying one may just introduce you to a solid and reliable source of ongoing support that can help you stick to a healthier path.
- Eating Disorder Peer Support Groups. (2021). ANAD. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
- Support Groups. National Alliance for Eating Disorders. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
- Welcome to the Eating Disorders Chat Room. (2021). HealthfulChat. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
- The Aviary – Online Support Group. Beat. Retrieved December 8, 2022.