How Much Does Eating Disorder Treatment Cost? (2023)

When seeking treatment for an eating disorder, two of the first questions that often arise include "How much does eating disorder treatment cost?" and “How will I pay for treatment?”

The answers depend on a great many variables. Eating disorders are complex illnesses that present with a number of psychiatric, medical, and nutritional issues. Treatment needs, and therefore costs, vary based on the severity of these factors.

People with eating disorders often require coordinated care from several health care professionals. As a result, treatment for eating disorders can often be very expensive. While costs vary, a two-week inpatient stay in a hospital can cost upwards of $20,000, and a stay in a residential facility averages $1,200 per day.

Unfortunately, most people in the United States who have an eating disorder do not receive any treatment at all, often in part because of the potential costs. A better understanding of the options and learning how to advocate for yourself or a family member can help you access help.

This article discusses eating disorder treatments and whether insurance covers them. It also explores tips for getting coverage and treatment options without insurance.

Levels of Treatment

One of the first factors affecting the cost is determining what level of care you need.

How Treatment Level Impacts Cost

The more intensive the treatment you require, the more expensive it is. For example, being hospitalized in a psychiatric or medical hospital is the most costly.As you progress to less intensive levels of treatment (generally:residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, outpatient), the cost decreases.

Overnight facility stays are the most expensive. In addition to care from more professionals, the cost includes room and board. Medical centers have even higher costs because of the nursing and medical specialists involved in care.

(Video) The Devastating Cost of Eating Disorders

A 2019 report found that a two-week inpatient hospital stay could cost $19,000 or more. A 2020 report on the social and economic cost of eating disorders in the U.S. found that the average cost for intensive treatment in a residential facility was more than $1,200 per day, with an average treatment duration of one month.

Lengths of stay also vary considerably—patients may require anywhere from a few days to three or more months of treatment at different levels. A 2017 study found that the average length of stay for treating eating disorders was 37.9 days.

While every patient’s experience is unique, the far greater expense of treatment at the higher levels often results in patients spending relatively less time at the higher levels of treatment and more time at the lower levels.

It is unfortunate, but many treatments are cut short by insurers that limit stays in the higher levels of care.


Inpatient eating disorder treatment is expensive. Some programs can cost upwards of $30,000 to $40,000 per month. Each person's needs are different, but treatment can take three months or longer.

An Overview of Eating Disorder Treatments

Will Insurance Cover Eating Disorder Treatment?

Treatment in medical hospitals or university health centers is usually covered by medical health benefits. However, insurance typically only covers short-term stays for medical reasons (such as an unstable heart rate).

Treatment at residential centers and in outpatient programs is typically provided by mental health benefits (which not all policies include).

(Video) Special Report: Inside the world of child and teenage eating disorders

The first residential eating disorder treatment program opened in 1985.In the 1990s, as managed care dramatically shortened hospital stays for eating disorders, other residential centers soon followed to fill the treatment gap.

Patients with eating disorders are increasingly receiving treatment at this level of care, partly in response to changes in federal law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act, signed in 2008, is a law that requires insurance companies to provide coverage for mental health and substance use disorders equivalent to that for physical health problems.

This applies to most larger group health plans. For example, the law requires that insurers do not set behavioral health visit copays higher than medical visit copays at the same level of care. The parity law also impacts treatment limits, mostly eliminating the annual session caps that used to be common among mental health programs.

The Anna Westin Act

Passed by Congress as part of the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016,the Anna Westin Act further clarified that residential treatment for eating disorders was intended to be covered as part of the parity law.


Changes in insurance laws have helped improve coverage for some eating disorder treatments. Insurers are now required to provide the same level of care for both mental and physical health problems.

Getting Insurance to Pay for Treatment

In order to learn whether eating disorder treatment will be covered by your insurance plan, there are some important steps you need to take. This includes finding out what sort of coverage you have and finding providers who will accept your insurance.

Learn About Your Insurance Plan

Request a copy or your insurance plan from your employer or insurance company. Review your coverage for different levels of care.

Call your insurance company and ask for a list of facilities and outpatient providers who are in-network. In-network providers and facilities are contracted directly with your insurer, and they will be the least expensive option.

(Video) MAYDAYS 2020 - The Crippling Cost of an Eating Disorder

Determine whether you have a large deductible to meet before the insurer starts to contribute to the cost of care and whether after this contribution begins, you will have a copay—the portion of the stay or sessions you are expected to pay directly.

Check With the Treatment Provider

You can then call facilities and providers and ask them for your treatment options. If you can find an-in network provider who is contracted with your insurance company, this will always be a cheaper option.

However, be aware that many therapists who specialize in eating disorders do not accept insurance. Balancing the competing priorities of provider competence and cost of care can be tricky.

If your outpatient provider will not bill insurance directly, some will provide a superbill, which is an itemized invoice that has the information you need to submit to your insurance company in order to seek partial reimbursement for the cost of a session.

If you can’t find a facility or provider that accepts your insurance, you can also request a single-case agreement from your insurer. This allows your insurance company to treat the facility or provider as if they were in-network and pay their fee for your treatment. This is not guaranteed—achieving this can require a lot of advocacy on behalf of yourself or your family member.

Advocate for Treatment

Be prepared to take on your insurer to advocate for care. Sometimes insurance companies will refuse to pay for necessary treatment or will prematurely curtail treatment. It is common for insurers to demand discharge once a patient’s weight begins to improve.

They may do this without looking at the complete clinical picture. Weight restoration is only one short leg of the journey towards recovery. In such cases, your providers can appeal on your behalf.

Know Your Rights

You may even need to register a legal complaint against your insurance company to get them to pay for treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling to secure treatment for an eating disorder, visitwww.DontDenyMe.orgto learn about your rights and get connected to resources for filing an appeal and issuing a complaint against your health plan.

Regarding publicly-funded programs throughout the US, there is a shortage of specialized treatment for eating disorders. Medicare and Medicaid providers at all levels of care are often limited.

(Video) The Financial Stress of Eating Disorder Treatment

Many plans cover acute medical hospitalization but not lower levels of care.Few outpatient providers accept public insurance.

Getting Treatment Without Health Insurance

Eating disorder treatment is notoriously expensive. For many patients, this is a huge barrier. However, there are other options:

  • Community mental health centers: Low-cost counseling centers can provide treatment but may lack providers with specialized training.
  • Family-based treatment (FBT): Adolescent eating disorder treatment is sometimes an alternative to more costly residential treatment for teens. In FBT, a lot of the treatment is shifted to parents, who are charged with renourishing their teen and interrupting eating disorder behaviors.
  • Support groups: These provide support to those who are unable to access treatment. The National Eating Disorder Association has a list of low-cost options including support groups.
  • Treatment scholarships: Scholarships are provided directly by some treatment centers. Project Heal is an organization that provides treatment scholarships to various treatment centers around the country.
  • University research programs: You may find low-cost treatment in exchange for participation in clinical research. Reach out to major research universities and inquire about studies.
  • Web-centered: Online, app-centered, and workbook-centered self-help and guided self-help options can be helpful as well.

The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness has an interactive treatment finder tool that includes eating disorder treatment options at all levels of care.You can also search for programs that accept Medicare and Medicaid.


If you don't have insurance, there are still treatment options that can help. Community-based options, university programs, app-based treatment, support groups, and treatment scholarships are just a few options to consider.

The Best Online Therapy ProgramsWe've tried, tested and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain.

A Word from Verywell

Financial barriers to treatment are real. It’s tough enough to be struggling with an eating disorder and having to worry about affording treatment adds another layer of stress and difficulty to the problem. But doing your research and advocating for yourself or your family member with an eating disorder can help you to get needed care.

What's An Eating Disorder?

(Video) The Cost of Eating Disorders


How much does it cost to recover from anorexia? ›

Recap. Inpatient eating disorder treatment is expensive. Some programs can cost upwards of $30,000 to $40,000 per month. Each person's needs are different, but treatment can take three months or longer.

What is the average time to overcome an eating disorder? ›

Parents of patients with anorexia report a range of time, from six months to two-plus years for full “brain healing” to occur.

What is the success rate of eating disorders? ›

Because eating disorders are often difficult to treat and the individuals who have them often exhibit significant comorbidities, the long-term success rate (3-5 years or more)-defined as recovery and abstinence from the disorder behaviors-is in the 40% to 50% range, at best.

What is the standard treatment for anorexia? ›

Treatment for anorexia usually involves a combination of talking therapy and supervised weight gain. It's important to start treatment as early as possible to reduce the risk of serious complications, particularly if you've already lost a lot of weight.

What is the most successful treatment for anorexia? ›

For adults, cognitive behavioral therapy — specifically enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy — has been shown to help. The main goal is to normalize eating patterns and behaviors to support weight gain. The second goal is to help change distorted beliefs and thoughts that maintain restrictive eating.

How long do you stay at Renfrew? ›

Before the rise of health maintenance organizations and cost-conscious managed-care programs, the average stay at Renfrew was seven to nine weeks; today the usual stay is only two to four.

Does anorexia cause permanent brain damage? ›

Brain scans of people with anorexia reveal that the brain goes through structural changes or abnormal activity during the disease. Some of these abnormalities may discontinue weight restoration, but some of the damage to the brain can be permanent.

What does anorexia do to your brain? ›

Parts of the brain undergo structural changes and abnormal activity during anorexic states. Reduced heart rate, which could deprive the brain of oxygen. Nerve-related conditions including seizures, disordered thinking, and numbness or odd nerve sensations in the hands or feet.

Can anorexia be fully cured? ›

Many Patients with Anorexia Nervosa Get Better, But Complete Recovery Elusive to Most. Three in four patients with anorexia nervosa – including many with challenging illness – make a partial recovery. But just 21 percent make a full recovery, a milestone that is most likely to signal permanent remission.

Why do anorexics not have a period? ›

Why does amenorrhea occur in anorexia? Women with anorexia limit their caloric intake through food restriction or excessive exercise. If your body can't access nutrition, hormone levels dip, and your period stops. For some women, amenorrhea occurs long before they lose a significant amount of weight.

What percent of anorexics relapse? ›

Research indicates that more than a third of all patients treated for anorexia or bulimia relapse within the first few years of completing treatment. The highest risk for relapse from anorexia nervosa occurs in the first 18 months after treatment, with 35% falling back into eating disordered behaviors.

What mental illness has the highest mortality rate? ›

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a common eating disorder with the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric diseases. However, few studies have examined inpatient characteristics and treatment for AN.

At what weight do you get hospitalized for anorexia? ›

One Place for Treatment

Admission criteria require that patients be less than 70 percent of their ideal body weight, or have a body mass index (BMI) below 15. In a woman who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, that's about 85 pounds.

Can you be hospitalized for not eating? ›

Hospitalization for eating disorders

Hospitalization may be necessary if you have serious physical or mental health problems or if you have anorexia and are unable to eat or gain weight. Severe or life-threatening physical health problems that occur with anorexia can be a medical emergency.

What qualifies as an eating disorder? ›

Eating disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions and your ability to function in important areas of life. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

When treating a person with AN eating disorder The first priority is? ›

The first priority in treating an eating disorder is to evaluate if the individual is healthy enough to receive outpatient therapy or if he/she needs to be hospitalized as an inpatient until weight can be stabilized. Once stable, an individual can seek outpatient therapy to assist in the treatment of the disorder.

What percent of the US has AN eating disorder? ›

General Eating Disorder Statistics

Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide. 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”

How does anorexia develop? ›

The exact cause of anorexia is unknown. As with many diseases, it's probably a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Biological. Although it's not yet clear which genes are involved, there may be genetic changes that make some people at higher risk of developing anorexia.

Does Renfrew allow phones? ›

You are permitted to watch TV, engage in arts and crafts, hang out with other patients in the community, or use one of Renfrew's cordless phones during designated times.

What does Diabulimia mean? ›

What is diabulimia? Type 1 diabetes with disordered eating (T1DE) or diabulimia is an eating disorder that only affects people with type 1 diabetes. It's when someone reduces or stops taking their insulin to lose weight.

Does Renfrew treat males? ›

The Renfrew Center specializes in empowering adolescent and adult females, transgender and gender non-binary individuals. Do not suffer in silence and isolation—reach out to a Renfrew Program Information Specialist to schedule a FREE assessment or to learn more about our services. Thinking About Treatment?

When does anorexia become serious? ›

Those experiencing end-stage anorexia present as severely underweight with a BMI of less than 15, are suffering the physical and psychological effects of severe starvation, and require immediate life-saving medical interventions [2]. If left untreated, end-stage anorexia nervosa will lead to death.

What is the life expectancy for anorexia? ›

5-10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease and 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years. Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness (including major depression).

When does anorexia become irreversible? ›

The first victim of anorexia is often the bones.

"You're supposed to be pouring in bone, and you're losing it instead." Such bone loss can set in as soon as six months after anorexic behavior begins, and is one of the most irreversible complications of the disease.

Can anorexia be permanent? ›

Brain scans have shown that severe anorexia can lead to structural changes in the brain and cause nerve damage that affects the brain and other parts of the body. Once a person's weight is restored, these changes should return to normal, but in some cases, the damage may be permanent.

What is an emotional anorexic? ›

As the name implies, emotional anorexia involves a feeling of hunger, but instead of food, it's a denial of one's emotional and spiritual needs and desires.

How does disordered eating develop? ›

Stressful events in life can trigger disordered eating as a way to cope. People who have experienced a job loss, death of a loved one, financial struggles, relationship difficulties, and other stressors may turn to food to comfort themselves. Or they might create a rigid diet.

Does an eating disorder just go away? ›

Like all mental health conditions, healing will take time and energy, but working to overcome issues is much better than trudging through them without getting help. Eating disorders that continue unchecked can become debilitating, so it's important to get treatment- and soon.

Why do people have anorexia? ›

The causes that may contribute to a person developing anorexia nervosa include: Psychological factors, such as a high level of perfectionism or obsessive-compulsive personality traits, feeling limited control in life and low self-esteem, a tendency towards depression and anxiety and a poor reaction to stress.

What is the main difference between anorexia and anorexia nervosa? ›

"Anorexia" describes a simple inability or aversion to eating, whether caused by a medical problem or a mental health issue. "Anorexia nervosa," however, is the name for the clinical eating disorder, the main symptom of which is self-starvation.

At what BMI do periods stop? ›

Infrequent Periods

The greater your BMI (typically in the obesity range over 35), the more likely you are to miss your period. It is even possible to stop bleeding altogether, a condition known as secondary amenorrhea.

What is secondary anorexia? ›

Secondary anorexia is one of the main factors responsible for the development of malnutrition, which in turn negatively affects patient morbidity and mortality. Different mechanisms have been proposed to explain the pathogenesis of secondary anorexia.

What does your BMI have to be to get your period? ›

Our study concluded that there was a statistically significant relationship observed between BMI and menstrual pattern. The results showed that 75.51% of girls with BMI 14-24.9 had a normal menstrual pattern. All sixteen girls with a BMI of 25 – 29.9 kg/m2had infrequent cycles.

When is the risk of relapse greatest? ›

You're at the greatest risk of relapse when:
  • You experience new life events, such as Christmas, a fight with your spouse, a death in your family, or moving for the first time without alcohol or drugs.
  • You're under stress, whether positive or negative. ...
  • You're around triggers for drug and alcohol use.
23 Dec 2014

How long do anorexia relapses last? ›

General rates of eating disorder relapse are especially high within the first year of recovery, with continued risk for up to two years. Relapse can impact an individual who is in recovery from any eating disorder, but the risk of relapse is particularly high in individuals who are recovering from anorexia nervosa.

What percent of anorexia patients make a full recovery? ›

Research suggests that around 46% of anorexia patients fully recover, a 33% improving and 20% remaining chronically ill. Similar research into bulimia suggests that 45% make a full recovery, 27% improve considerably and 23% suffer chronically.

What is the deadliest disorder? ›

The findings show anorexia to be the most deadly psychiatric diagnosis. The anorexia mortality rate of 5.86 is dramatically higher than: Schizophrenia, which increases death risk 2.8-fold in males and 2.5-fold in females.

What are the most serious mental disorders? ›

Serious mental illness (SMI) includes: Schizophrenia.
These often come up around SMI:
  • Mood disorders – depressive disorders, bipolar disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders – posttraumatic stress disorder, for example.
  • Psychotic disorders – schizophrenia, delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder.

What are the 7 disorders? ›

These specific mental illnesses typically fall into the seven categories of mental disorders.
  • Anxiety Disorders. Many people experience some anxiety in their lives, but they find that it comes and goes. ...
  • Mood Disorders. ...
  • Psychotic Disorders. ...
  • Eating Disorders. ...
  • Personality Disorders. ...
  • Dementia. ...
  • Autism.
6 Apr 2021

What should you not say to someone with Ed? ›

From my personal experience, here are some things that you shouldn't say to someone with an Eating Disorder (ED):
  • Don't tell someone they are too fat to have an ED. ...
  • Don't talk about weight or comment on the person's appearance. ...
  • Don't tell someone that they don't look sick. ...
  • Don't comment on the person's food.

What percentage of the population has an eating disorder? ›

Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide. 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”

What are the 7 examples of disordered eating patterns? ›

Read more about these different types of eating disorders, and how to recognize the symptoms.
  • Anorexia. ...
  • Bulimia. ...
  • Binge eating disorder. ...
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) ...
  • Pica. ...
  • Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED) ...
  • Orthorexia.
6 Sept 2021

What does Diabulimia mean? ›

What is diabulimia? Type 1 diabetes with disordered eating (T1DE) or diabulimia is an eating disorder that only affects people with type 1 diabetes. It's when someone reduces or stops taking their insulin to lose weight.

What do you say to a girl who has an eating disorder? ›

"I love you / I care about you."

Nothing could top the words love and care. Someone in recovery might feel unstable and alone. Let them know that they're not, let them know that they're loved and cared about. Don't let anyone forget.

What do you say to someone after a binging? ›

But do say:
  • “I care about you.”
  • “I want you to be happy and healthy.”
  • “I'm here for you when you need me.”
  • “I'm going to support you through this.”
  • “I won't share what you tell me with anyone else without your permission.”
  • “I won't judge you.”
20 Oct 2021

What gender is more likely to have an eating disorder? ›

Eating disorders are much more common among women than men. Now, a new study may have uncovered a neurological explanation for this disparity. Researchers find that women are more likely than men to experience brain activity relating to negative body perception.

Who is most likely to have an eating disorder? ›

Teenage girls and young women are more likely than teenage boys and young men to have anorexia or bulimia, but males can have eating disorders, too. Although eating disorders can occur across a broad age range, they often develop in the teens and early 20s.

What country has the most cases of eating disorders? ›

It is fair to say that the increasing rate of eating disorders, Japan has the highest rate of prevalence, followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. Then following are the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and Vietnam [7].

How does not eating affect your body? ›

Low blood sugar causes people to feel irritable, confused and fatigued. The body begins to increase production of cortisol, leaving us stressed and hangry. Skipping meals can also cause your metabolism to slow down, which can cause weight gain or make it harder to lose weight.

How does anorexia develop? ›

The exact cause of anorexia is unknown. As with many diseases, it's probably a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Biological. Although it's not yet clear which genes are involved, there may be genetic changes that make some people at higher risk of developing anorexia.

Which is the most serious health risk resulting from anorexia nervosa? ›

Anorexia nervosa is a serious medical condition that can affect every organ system of the body. The most serious health risk of anorexia is increased mortality.

What is Bigorexia disorder? ›

Bigorexia is a mental health disorder that primarily affects teen boys and young men. It is associated with anxiety and depression, substance abuse (specifically the use of anabolic steroids), eating disorders, and problems with school, work, and relationships.

What is reverse anorexia? ›

In muscle dysmorphia, which is sometimes called "bigorexia", "megarexia", or "reverse anorexia", the delusional or exaggerated belief is that one's own body is too small, too skinny, insufficiently muscular, or insufficiently lean, although in most cases, the individual's build is normal or even exceptionally large and ...

Which mental illness has the highest mortality rate? ›

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a common eating disorder with the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric diseases. However, few studies have examined inpatient characteristics and treatment for AN.


1. 8 Reasons You Don’t Want to Recover from an Eating Disorder
(Kati Morton)
2. #60: Eating Disorder Treatment: Breaking Down the Barriers
(Psych Hub)
3. It’s time to do eating disorder recovery differently | Kristie Amadio | TEDxYouth@Christchurch
(TEDx Talks)
4. Binge Eating Disorder Triggers and Treatments
(Dr. Tracey Marks)
5. How To Treat Eating Disorders
(Neuro Transmissions)
6. Frontiers in Psychiatric Treatment: Eating Disorders
(Icahn School of Medicine)
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