All told, about one in every 11 American adults goes without medical care due to prohibitive costs.  Yet, when it comes to eating disorders, avoiding treatment can be deadly.
If you’re struggling to pay for eating disorder treatment, there are a number of free or low-cost resources that could help you, including:
- Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association
- ANAD Eating Disorder Peer Support Groups
- Recovery Record
- National Alliance for Eating Disorders support groups
- Centre for Clinical Interventions
- Rise Up
- Brighter Bite
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association
The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (or MEDA) is a private healthcare provider focused on eating disorders.
If you have a private insurance plan, you can sign up with MEDA for care. You can also ask the team about payment programs, as they offer hardship scholarships for those in need.
But MEDA also has a free program, which anyone can use.
The MEDA Recovery Community is designed for people seeking eating disorder help wherever they are. With a focus on building support groups, the service offers access to:
- Online classes
- Guided meditations
- Online library
You can also sign up for the Community Connections Forum and share your story. Reading inspirational messages from other people and getting your questions answered by peers could be a helpful resource while working on recovery.
There’s no cost to participate, but you must register to get started.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) is a nonprofit organization that uses research and advocacy to help people struggling with eating disorders. Their website offers plenty of information on how eating disorders work and how treatment can help.
They also offer more direct help in the form of support group meetings.
As meetings are led by peers rather than professionals, they can’t substitute for a formal treatment program. But they can give you the tools you need to fill gaps in your care.
You can choose from general meetings or one tailored to a more specific group, including:
- LGBTQ+ communities
- BIPOC communities
- Teens and young adults
- People in larger bodies
- Older adults
All meetings are virtual, so you can connect from wherever you are, even if you’re not close to a large metropolitan area. Each meeting lasts around 75 minutes.
There’s no cost to participate, but you must register to get started.
National Alliance for Eating Disorders
Even if you never interact with the Alliance directly, you may benefit from their work.
Members of the group advocate for better research and funding for eating disorders. And the national nonprofit organization also offers educational resources about eating disorders, including blogs and videos.
But the Alliance also offers free weekly support groups led by professional therapists.
These meetings offer advice on how eating disorders are treated, and therapists also discuss exercises and tools to help with disordered thoughts or behavior. Still, the work is more general, as the therapists are meant to help all participants equally rather than provide one-on-one treatment during the meeting.
Meetings are designed for people ages 18 and older, and options for friends and family are available too. Many major cities host in-person meetings, but virtual options are also available.
You don’t need to pay anything to attend, but you must register.
U.S. Health and Human Services
The U.S. government also has some designated programs to help people with low or no income access the treatment they need for a number of medical concerns. One of those programs is the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
The HRSA is in charge of the Health Center Program, a system of health centers located across the country.
There are more than 1,400 health centers nationwide, and about 93% of them provide mental health counseling. 
A program like this could help you get the treatment you need at a price that can fit your budget.
You can contact the Health Center program to reach a professional via chat or telephone or use the website to find a health center near you.
Centre for Clinical Interventions
If you’d like to investigate eating disorders and find out how they’re treated, the Centre for Clinical Interventions could be just the right space for you.
Run by the Australian government, the group offers downloadable workbooks filled with exercises to help you identify negative thought patterns, change your eating habits, and test your fears.
Information sheets with more information on eating disorders are also available. It may even help to print them out to help explain your condition to friends and family.
You’ll pay nothing for any of these resources, and no registration is required.
About nine in 10 Americans own a connected cellphone, and many keep it on hand at all times.  One of the upshots of this is the access it opens up to apps designed for recovery.
The Recovery Record app is one such program made to keep you connected with a treatment provider, such as a doctor or therapist. The app connects you with your treatment plan, and it allows you to track your progress and stick to the goals you set in therapy.
Even if you don’t have a treatment provider, you can still use the app. In these cases, you can set your own goals, track your eating, and tap into encouraging messages around the clock.
There’s no fee to download the app, but you might face advanced cell charges if you’re always using it while on the go.
Rise up is another free app designed for people struggling with eating disorders. The program works on both Apple and Android devices, and it goes wherever you go, right there on your phone.
Rise Up works by helping you:
- Log your meals
- Record your emotions regarding eating
- Understand the behaviors you use before and after meals
- Record your thoughts
This app is meant to work in concert with a formal treatment plan. Typically, people record data and share it with doctors and therapists. But you could use it outside of a treatment program to stay accountable.
Brighter Bite is yet another free app that offers help for people struggling with eating disorders.
Similarly to Rise Up, the platform offers space for you to:
- Log your meals
- Record your feelings about your meals
- Chat with a bot and get helpful tips and tools
- Track your results over time
Like most eating disorder apps, this tool is also meant to work hand-in-hand with a formal treatment program. Anything you document through Brighter Bite can be shared with a doctor or therapist in a downloadable PDF.
But Bright Bite also includes rescue resources, which you can tap into if your symptoms feel overwhelming. If you’re using these spaces often, you might need more significant help.
How to Treat an Eating Disorder
The good news is that eating disorders are treatable conditions. Programs that combine counseling, support, and medication management have been shown to help people learn to control their disordered eating and make a full recovery.
Talk to Your Insurance Company
Start your treatment journey with insurance. Contact your provider and ask about your coverage. See if programs near you work with your insurance company directly and ask about your out-of-pocket costs, so there are no surprises down the road.
While you may think you can’t pay for treatment, you might be surprised at the help insurance can deliver. Call and find out more.
Look for Other Resources
If you’re working on a limited budget and can’t enroll in a full inpatient program, the above resources may offer additional help. You can use them to fill the gaps in your treatment programs or to help educate yourself and find additional resources.
Support groups can offer even more advice in situations that remain troublesome.
And while apps or support group meetings can’t take the place of more structured treatment, these tools can help round out your care and keep costs low.
When struggling with an eating disorder, many people think there’s no solution. But it’s actually the opposite that’s true. With the right help, it’s possible to get well and sustain recovery for a healthier and happier life.
- Ortaliza, J., Fox, L., Claxton, G., Amin, K. How Does Cost Affect Access to Care? (2022, January 14). Health System Tracker. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
- Rainie, L., Zickuhr, K. Americans’ Views on Mobile Etiquette. (2015, August 26). Pew Research Center. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
- HRSA Behavioral Health. (2021, December). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved September 20, 2022.