What Happens When I Call An Eating Disorder Helpline?

September 28, 2023

It can be overwhelming and isolating to struggle with an eating disorder. Disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder can be difficult to manage on your own. That’s why it’s important to reach out for help if you or a loved one is experiencing signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. Helplines are often the first place people turn to when they need help and guidance regarding an eating disorder. But what is a helpline? And how does it work? This article will answer these questions and help you better understand how to get the support you need. You do not need to struggle with an eating disorder alone; the first step to the care you need and deserve is just a phone call away. 

What Is A Helpline?

The loneliness and challenges of living with an eating disorder may be too much to manage on your own. It’s important to seek help, and a great place to start is by calling a helpline. Helplines, also known as hotlines or crisis lines, offer listening, resources, and support to help you navigate through a challenging time. Talking with a real human on the other end of the line may help alleviate your anxiety and loneliness, while also connecting you to the resources you need to pursue support. There are helplines for a variety of disorders such as eating disorders, substance abuse, mental illnesses, and suicide prevention. An eating disorder helpline is a critical line of support not only for the individuals experiencing eating disorders or those in crisis, but also for the parents, guardians, friends, and loved ones of those people. We all need a helping hand at times and a helpline is a great place to begin that conversation. 

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What Can I Expect When I Call A Helpline for Eating Disorders?

The National Alliance for Eating Disorders offers a toll-free helpline for those struggling with eating disorders or their loved ones. Licensed providers, such as counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals, answer your call (or return your message as soon as possible) to connect you to the support you need. During business hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 7pm EST),, you can expect a real person to pick up the phone and speak with you about your concerns.

To get started, they will ask you for some basic information: your name, the concern of your call, your insurance information, and any signs or symptoms of eating disorders that you or your loved one has been experiencing. If these questions seem overwhelming, don’t panic! The staff at the National Alliance for Eating Disorders will help you navigate these prompts and provide you with support,  even if you are unsure of how to answer their questions. 

For those calling with questions about eating disorder treatment, experienced professionals who specialize in eating disorders will provide referrals to all levels of care to help you find treatment right for you. Using their national database of eating disorder care providers, they will be able to connect you to healthcare professionals or treatment programs and help you begin the path to eating disorder recovery. Further resources may include recommendations for in-person and virtual support groups, emotional support for family members and loved ones, and access to psychoeducation. Their goal is to provide the client or loved one with all the information and resources necessary to seek appropriate and prompt care for eating disorders. 

The therapists at the National Alliance for Eating Disorders provide someone to talk with to help relieve the feelings of stress and anxiety that can accompany coping with an eating disorder. You can expect a real, empathetic person on the other end of the line, someone actively listening to you and your concerns. These licensed professionals will direct you to the resources and services you need, however they are not able to provide a diagnosis or medical advice over the phone. 

Whether you’re a patient or loved one seeking treatment or in crisis, the National Alliance for Eating Disorders helpline is there for you. Remember: you are not alone. 

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What Happens After I Reach Out For Help?

The specialized team at the National Alliance for Eating Disorders is here to connect you to the help you need. After you call the helpline and learn about treatment options, resources, or support groups, the next steps may be easier to take because you are not alone. The licensed professional at the helpline may have provided referrals to outpatient therapists or dietitians  or to eating disorder treatment centers. Eating disorder treatment varies depending on many different factors, including insurance, medical or psychiatric concerns, and other co-occurring diagnoses. There are various levels of care that you may pursue based on your individual experience and the recommendation of the helpline therapist. They include:

  • Outpatient treatment: The patient lives at their own home and attends weekly sessions with their healthcare provider(s). 
  • Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP): The patient lives at home and attends programming several times a week in a specialized setting such as a treatment center, hospital, or virtually. 
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP): The patient typically attends treatment five days a week for six to eight hours each day. The individual attends programming for the majority of the day, but returns home or to transitional living in the evening.
  • Residential treatment: This option provides round-the-clock care and supervision for those engaging in eating disorder behaviors. Regular programming such as individual therapy, nutrition counseling, and psychiatric care with an on-site care team provide an intensive and individualized journey to recovery. 
  • Inpatient treatment: For those who are experiencing an eating disorder that is not responding to less intensive treatment options, inpatient treatment offers a higher level of care including 24-hour medical and psychiatric support, as well as support for co-occurring mental health conditions. 

These options may seem overwhelming but your call to the helpline and ensuing conversation with an eating disorder specialist can help you find the most appropriate care  for your unique situation. You may also choose to join support groups, either in person or online. Another important step will be to develop a support network of friends, family members, and peer support as you begin taking steps to recovery. Regardless of the next steps you take after calling the helpline, you can take them in confidence knowing that you are supported and never alone 

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The National Alliance for Eating Disorders Helpline Information

Connect to the care you need by calling the National Alliance for Eating Disorders helpline. Our free helpline is run by licensed therapists who specialize in eating disorders and are here to help! Call +1 (866) 662-1235 or email referrals@allianceforeatingdisorders.com, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm EST to talk directly with a therapist. If you’re calling outside the listed hours, leave a message and a specialist will call you back as soon as they can. 

Seek Help

If you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help. Recovery is possible and help is available with the National Alliance for Eating Disorders.