Eating Disorder Support Groups

Eating disorder support groups can be very helpful in dealing with an eating disorder. Read this article for more information on eating disorder support groups. Find out where they are available, both online and in physical locations in many local areas.

Eating disorders is a collection of several, quite different disorders and people with each of them often seek a eating disorder support group, as do their families. In seeking an eating disorder support group, people may ask their doctor or therapist, check with local health organizations, including hospitals and clinics, or student health centers at colleges and universities, or search online. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has a database of support groups here:

Some eating disorders are classified as psychological disorders, and one common one is not. Eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa< in which a person has an unhealthy body image and attempts to fit the image by losing an unhealthy amount of weight
  • Bulimia Nervosa, in which a person binge eats and then compensates in some way, such as purging, over-exercising, or fasting
  • Binge-Eating Disorder, in which a person has recurrent episodes of eating extremely large amounts of food, but does not compensate, as someone with Bulimia Nervosa does
  • Overeating, in which a person consistently eats more than his or her body needs for sustenance. Unlike the three above, overeating is not a recognized psychological disorder, but people who overeat still seek support.
  • Food addiction

Types of Eating Disorder Support Groups

Some eating disorder support groups are individual local groups, started by people by, in, and for a local community. Others are national or international efforts. Eating disorder support groups have a variety of philosophies and approaches, which depend very much on the type of eating disorder addressed. For example, groups for people who are addicted to food are likely to find 12-step programs, that bear similarities to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), although clearly, there are alterations in the program because one cannot abstain from food in the same way that one can abstain from using alcohol or drugs. Here are some examples of eating disorder support groups:

Food Addicts Anonymous is a self-supporting fellowship that was founded in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1987 and has more than 65 FAA meeting groups around the world. The group supports individuals using a 12-Step approach to avoiding dietary elements that have proved addictive for them, including sugar, flour, wheat and/or whatever particular foods cause members problems as individuals, which is referred to as the FAA “Food Plan.” FAA hosts online meetings in a private chatroom. More information on local and online meetings is available on the FAA website.

Overeaters Anonymous is also a 12-Step fellowship program for people recovering from compulsive eating. OA, unlike FAA, does not offer a specific plan of eating, but requires that each individual have one, and suggests that members gain guidance from a qualified healthcare professional in creating one. The hope, here, is to refrain from overeating, rather than from particular food substances. OA sponsors local meetings and web-based meetings. Overeaters Anonymous has about 6500 meetings in more than 75 countries.

Eating Disorders Anonymous is a self-supporting fellowship of people who have a variety of eating disorders and aim to recover with a goal of balance, rather than abstinence. It was founded in Phoenix, Arizona in 2000 by Alcoholics Anonymous members. EDA does not provide or endorse a food plan: in fact, it takes the stance that rigidity about food is to be avoided and suggests that members consult qualified professionals for dietary advice. There are meetings in 36 states, as well as Australia, Canada, Ireland, and South Africa. Online meetings are also available, as well as phone meetings.

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated eating Disorders is known as ANAD and was founded by Vivian Hanson Meehan in 1976. ANAD was created to provide information, support, and self-help, and it provides more than 200 self-help groups in many U.S. states and in 14 other countries. Besides the groups, ANAD maintains a hotline and a referral list for healthcare providers for people with Anorexia Nervosa and related eating disorders. It also works to remove pro-anorexic websites from the Internet.


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