What number should you call if you have an eating disorder?
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There are also hotlines that are designed to help people in general crisis, staffed by empathetic, trained individuals who can help you process difficult feelings. These hotlines can be a lifeline when times are tough. The professionals can help you map out a plan for full recovery, such as connecting you with eating disorder treatment centers, in addition to helping you in the moment.
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Eating Disorder Hotlines
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
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 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.
Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association
Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (formerly the Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association) 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
The hotline is intended for anyone living in North America who has 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.
If you are experiencing a crisis, use the Crisis Text Line, which is available 24/7. Texting HOME to 741741 allows you to connect with a volunteer crisis counselor, as does texting NEDA to that same number. 
This group partners with NEDA, and is focused specifically on helping people with eating disorders who are in crisis. It offers text-based mental health support and crisis intervention.
Volunteers at the Crisis Text Line can also point you in the direction of additional resources and treatment options, but their primary focus is on crisis intervention. This number is best utilized if you feel overwhelmed or hopeless about your situation and need some support.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline
While not a resource exclusively for people with eating disorders, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a national helpline at 1-800-662-4357.  This helpline, which is confidential and available 24/7, can provide referrals to local treatment centers, peer support groups, and other community-based organizations.
The purpose of the SAMHSA hotline is essentially to make it as easy as possible for people to find relevant resources to help with mental health conditions. By following up on their recommendations, you can then get help for any issues related to mental health or substance abuse.
What Happens When You Call a Hotline?
When you call an eating disorder hotline, the experience will vary, depending on a number of factors.
When you initially call, you may have to go through some basic automated prompts. This is usually to identify more about the nature of your call. Once you answer these questions, there may be a short wait, after which you should be connected with another person.
This individual is likely a volunteer, although reputable hotlines train their volunteers and equip them with the means to get you in contact with medical professionals, if needed.
Oftentimes, eating disorder hotlines connect callers with local treatment and support resources, so they can get on a path to a full recovery. This provides callers with a long-term plan after the short-term intervention.
Regardless of what the experience is like, with all of the above hotlines—and any other run by a reputable source—you can expect the call to be free and confidential.
The Steps to Get Help for an Eating Disorder
Getting help for an eating disorder can be much easier than many people envision. Even making the effort to seek treatment is a genuine milestone that represents an important part of your recovery.
While the exact process varies, depending on your specific condition(s), insurance provider, and a number of other factors, there are a few general steps that will help connect you to the help you need.
Get Relevant Information About Local Resources
Doing some research is a good first step for most things, including seeking eating disorder treatment.
Through either your own research or the information you get through eating disorder hotlines, you can make an effort to learn about the relevant treatment resources in your area. Ideally, you’re going to learn about some treatment providers who can provide you with the best, most targeted care for your specific condition(s).
Seek a Diagnosis
Most treatment providers need to see an official diagnosis to admit you to a program. This is not to “prove” that you really have an eating disorder, but to help them understand the specific types of treatment that will be most likely to help you.
To obtain one, you’ll have to contact your primary care physician or another trained medical professional. You’ll then likely undergo a patient assessment and a medical exam. 
A clinician will ask you questions and perform some diagnostic tests to better understand your situation and daily habits, helping them to make a determination of your medical, nutritional, psychological, and social functioning and needs.
While it may still be possible for mental health professionals to provide some help even without a diagnosis, certain treatment approaches work better for different types of eating disorders. A proper diagnosis will also help you to potentially get medications that can assist with your symptoms and make it easier to identify any nutritional deficiencies and similar problems you may have developed.
With an official diagnosis, you can generally begin treatment. The standard treatment for an eating disorder consists of individual therapy—usually either cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal psychotherapy—along with nutritional counseling, meal assistance, and possibly medication consultations and group or family therapy, depending on the situation. If you have a co-occurring mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety disorder, it’s important to also address those concerns throughout the process. Treating co-occurring disorders simultaneously is generally considered a more successful approach to recovery than treating each disorder in isolation.
Recovering from an Eating Disorder
Getting treated for an eating disorder takes time and persistence. A quick fix may not be possible, but don’t give up on your treatment.
Treatment can help you learn to reduce some of your most dangerous habits and improve your physical health, even before you’re considered in full “recovery.” You’ll learn dietary planning and how to channel some of your negative thoughts in healthier ways. You’re also likely to see notable improvements in your sense of self and your overall happiness as you get treatment.
If you feel little progress has been made even after a few weeks or months with a treatment professional, you can consider trying treatment with a different professional to see if their approach may help you more.
But remember: progress isn’t necessarily linear. Many people experience recovery in a series of fits and spurts. The most important thing to keep in mind is that help is possible, and seeking it can help lead you to a healthier and happier future.
- Contact the Helpline. National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
- Crisis Text Line: Eating Disorders. Crisis Text Line. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
- Evaluation and Diagnosis. National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved December 3, 2022.