When Should I Start Looking For Eating Disorder Therapy In My Area?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

If you or someone you know is experiencing eating disorder symptoms, you may wonder whether seeing an eating disorder therapist near you would be beneficial. Often, seeking professional help for treating eating disorders can be a significant life change. Being as informed as possible about your options and how counseling may benefit you could be impactful when doing your initial search and connecting with a provider who can treat eating disorders.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Are you or a loved one experiencing eating disorder symptoms?

Eating disorder misconceptions

There may be misconceptions and stigmas surrounding eating disorders, the people who have them, and strategies to treat them. One misconception might be that eating disorders focus on food, body image, or health. However, eating disorders are not necessarily caused by counting calories or a negative body image. These behaviors or concerns may be symptoms of a mental health condition. Additionally, anyone of any gender, background, class, or weight can have an eating disorder. A person with an eating disorder may not have a specific “look,” and the body types of those experiencing them can vary drastically, which is different from the weight stigma that typically surrounds eating disorders. 

The causes of eating disorders can vary, but discovering the cause can be an important aspect of a successful treatment program. For example, someone may experience symptoms when they feel a lack of control or live with another mental health condition like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Eating behaviors can cause a sense of control over oneself, so one may rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms to feel in control of thoughts or feelings. During January, in particular, individuals susceptible to eating disorders may face increased challenges due to the pervasive message about dieting and self-improvement that often circulate this time of year. Body dysmorphic disorder can cause people to obsess over specific parts of their body and try to alter them.

Why search for an eating disorder therapist nearby?

Eating disorders can cause life-threatening health consequences for many, regardless of the type. 

For example, if a person’s body is deprived of proper nutrients and calories through eating restriction behaviors, it may use its tissue and muscles as fuel. An eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or another eating restriction condition can lead to fewer blood cells and physical symptoms like a drop in blood pressure or electrolyte imbalances as body weight decreases. If this process continues, an individual may be at medical risk for heart failure, a fatal health issue, or other serious health complications requiring around-the-clock medical monitoring. For this reason, having an eating disorder or suspected eating disorder can be dangerous if it goes untreated.

It's important to note that the health dangers of disordered eating may not be exclusive to the cardiovascular system. Some eating disorders can also harm the digestive system. Potential side effects may include esophagus damage, constipation, bacterial infections, and swollen salivary glands. The stomach may also be impacted. A number of life-threatening illnesses can be associated with eating disorders.

Health issues that may arise

Eating disorders can also have a series of adverse health impacts on the mental and psychological health of the affected individual. For example, studies found a link between mood disorders like depressive disorders and binge eating. Sleep apnea, fainting, dizziness, trouble concentrating, and seizures can be other health issues associated with eating disorders. Up to 50% of people with an eating disorder may also participate in substance abuse, compared to just 9% of the general population.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

The adverse health effects of eating disorders can be fatal if medical treatment is withheld or delayed. These consequences may not occur for everyone. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder, meet with a primary care physician for a checkup, and consider reaching out for mental health support like eating disorder treatment at a residential treatment center. If you require resources, consider the resources page on the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). 

What to expect in therapy

When deciding to work with a therapist in counseling, either individually or as part of a treatment team, it can be natural to have questions. Your therapist or provider is there to help you and provide research-backed support and guidance. If you feel judged or talked down to, it may be a sign to reach out to a new provider. Once you’ve found a provider you connect with, you can build a professional relationship and discuss your symptoms and concerns. Over time, you may find relief from your symptoms and healthier coping mechanisms. Many sources show that eating disorders are highly treatable. Whether you’re living with binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, or another eating disorder, eating disorder treatment and family-based treatment centers are available to you. Be sure to choose a credentialed professional to work with. The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals is the only organization that certifies eating disorders professionals.


Psychological therapy and treatment procedures

Often, therapy for eating disorders may involve talk therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). There can be various health benefits associated with this solution-focused treatment. For example, you may learn how to transform unhealthy habits into healthy habits, develop effective coping mechanisms and self-control, practice self-care, manage anxiety and depression, care for your physical health, and improve your emotional health. Effective treatment may also include nutritional counseling and meal planning as part of your full recovery.

While the benefits of therapy are well-documented, eating disorder treatment and therapy may be a long-term process that involves an extensive time commitment. Eating disorders and their underlying health issues might not materialize overnight, and those health issues may not disappear overnight either. With the support of your therapist, you may work toward personal growth, improving your self-esteem and feeling connected with your body and mind. You may also address any relationship issues that have occurred due to your eating disorder.

Types of treatments for eating disorders

Many therapies may be used to assist individuals intending to overcome an eating disorder, improve their health, and achieve support. Some therapies might be more effective in treating certain conditions, and some may work best for specific groups, such as therapies that treat adolescents or address perinatal mental health. Having a basic idea of the existing options can be valuable in easing apprehension and ridding yourself of uncertainty or fear about eating disorder treatment. Below are a few options you can consider. 

Patients who undergo cognitive-behavioral therapy with a mental health professional may work with that specialist to grasp the emotions, belief systems, behaviors, and symptoms of their eating disorder. When an individual experiences an eating disorder, it may co-occur with other mental health conditions or symptoms like anxiety, depression, or PTSD. For example, studies show that 50% to 70% of those with an eating disorder are also diagnosed with depression. Receiving support may treat underlying concerns and the eating disorder simultaneously. 

Treatment within a group setting

If you are living with an eating disorder, you’re not alone. 28.8 million adults will have an eating disorder in their lifetime, according to ANAD. For this reason, group therapy may be a beneficial treatment for eating disorders. Connecting with others who may understand your symptoms could feel therapeutic and healing.

In group therapy, participants might partake in exercises, games, or therapeutic discussions led by a licensed therapist or mental health provider. These treatments may benefit clients living at an eating disorder group home or treatment facility. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Are you or a loved one experiencing eating disorder symptoms?

Working in group therapy can provide mental health support, allow you to process your emotions, and help you realize that other people are experiencing similar symptoms. Additionally, you might be able to listen to others and learn various supportive coping mechanisms and positive mental health thought patterns. 

There may be specific group therapy options for specific types of eating disorders. For example, you could join a bulimia-specific recovery group led by an experienced mental health professional. Another benefit of group therapy could be the ability to inspire others in their recovery. The participants in the group may be listening to you and your story and feel inspired by it to make positive change. 

DBT treatment sessions

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) includes mindfulness, emotional control, interpersonal connectedness, and distress tolerance modules. In these therapy sessions, you may work with a mental health professional or eating disorder specialist to learn healthy coping skills in the above categories. 

Eating disorder therapists trained in dialectical behavior therapy may assign homework, worksheets, or practices to try at home. It may include skills like mindfulness, awareness, self-soothing, or radical acceptance. You can partake in DBT sessions one-on-one with a mental health professional or meet for a certain period in a group setting. With your group or eating disorder counselor, you may learn mindfulness, stress management, relationship building, and emotional control techniques.

Other types of therapy for eating disorders

There are many types of treatment for eating disorders. For example, one study found that exposure response prevention (ERP) was highly effective in treating certain eating disorders. Other options may include family-based therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), or trauma-based cognitive-behavioral therapy. Discuss your options with a provider before starting treatment. Treatment may differ depending on whether you are living with one of the several restrictive eating disorders or binge eating disorder.

Research strongly supports the use of interpersonal therapy for the treatment of binge eating disorder. Over approximately 20 weekly sessions, the patient can learn to address interpersonal struggles that are contributing to their binge eating in order to change their behavior. 

Counseling options for eating disorders

Seeing a mental health professional like a licensed clinical worker or therapist who works with eating disorders may be advantageous to your overall health and body image. If you search for an eating disorder therapist and have trouble finding effective, personalized treatment in your area, consider looking into an online platform like BetterHelp.

Feel free to contact an online therapy platform to be matched with a therapist experienced in treating symptoms and concerns similar to yours. You can attend phone, video, or live chat sessions from home and may be given worksheets, webinar suggestions, or prompts to work on outside your sessions. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression along with your eating disorder, clinical studies have shown that online cognitive behavioral therapy is as effective and, in some cases, more effective than in-person therapy treatments.


Eating disorders can be challenging to live with. However, many treatments including eating disorder counseling are available for support and healing. If you are interested in learning more about the treatment of eating disorders or programs available to you, consider checking out resources like the NEDA Helpline or reaching out to a therapist for further guidance and options.
Explore mental health and healing in therapy
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started