What If You Can’t Afford Eating Disorder Treatment?


I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for a good portion of my life, and it took a turn for the worse while my dad was out of a job. I had been through two inpatient psych admissions and always my biggest concern was how much money it would cost, but in hindsight I should have just focused on my recovery. Professionals say that early treatment of eating disorders is best and can avoid many issues, but what if you can’t afford treatment? What now? Believe it or not, there are options even without insurance.

1. Pay out of pocket.

On average, a month of residential treatment costs $30,000 USD. The median household income in 2014 was $53,719. That means most Americans will have to spend a good amount of what they’ve made in an entire year just to go to treatment for a month. For patients with eating disorders, residential treatment is anywhere between two weeks to a year. Most people do not have $30,000 (plus) lying around and many people struggling with addictions like eating disorders are in a stressful financial situation, like I was.

2. Raise funds.

Today there are online fundraising platforms that anyone can use. I actually made a GoFundMe page and raised exactly nothing. I was running out of options. But for some, it actually works and they’re able to get the help they need

3. Treatment grant.

There are amazing people out there who have started organizations to help those pay for treatment partially or completely. This was my last option, so I applied for a grant from Project HEAL. I honestly thought I wouldn’t get it and kept looking into treatment options and fighting with insurance.

Then on a Thursday in the middle of December, I got a call and it honestly saved my life. I was in shock for quite a while and I wondered, why they chose me of all people? They chose to save my life and if they hadn’t, I am sure by now I would be dead. It made me happy to go to treatment and other people noticed that, too. I was the only one admitted smiling. It gave me so much more of a motivation to recover and I knew I wasn’t wasting this grant. Thanks to Project HEAL, I went to inpatient and residential treatment for about four months just 11 days after they called me, and my family payed nothing — not even for the flights out and back. That is why I am still in recovery from anorexia.

I am one of the lucky ones. I am the 1 in 10 who got treatment, which is a true blessing. Eating disorders don’t have to be a death or debt sentence. People do die every day, but still insurance companies deny treatment day in and day out. In treatment I told other patients not to take any day for granted, because for each one of us there were hundreds more fighting and hoping just to spend at least one day where we were.

Treatment isn’t impossible to get and it might be harder for certain people, but the more you want it and the more you fight, the better off you will be on the other side of treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via paylessimages

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