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How Much Does it Cost to Treat Eating Disorders?

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How Much Does it Cost to Treat Eating Disorders?

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Key Takeaways

  • Eating disorders are serious behavioral conditions that can affect your quality of life.
  • There are effective treatment options for eating disorders but they can be expensive, especially if you don’t have insurance. 
  • The cost of eating disorder treatment will vary depending on what type of treatment you pursue, whether or not you have insurance, and whether or not your insurance covers your elected treatment.  

According to the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders affect an estimated 5% of the population. Roughly 28.8 million people in the United States will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. 

There are many factors that can play a role in eating disorder development, including a person’s psychological, biological, interpersonal, and cultural forces. This is why effective treatment often targets all symptoms, medical consequences, and factors that contribute to an eating disorder.

Treatment for eating disorders can vary from person-to-person, but usually involves a multi-tiered approach that includes psychotherapy, medical support, and nutritional counseling.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the types of eating disorder treatment available and what these options can cost.   

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How Much Do Eating Disorder Treatments Cost?

The cost of eating disorder treatment will vary depending on a variety of factors, including what type of treatment you require. In general, the more intensive the treatment, the more expensive that treatment cost.

Therapist

According to a report from 2019, the average cost of psychotherapy in the U.S. ranges from $100-$200 per session.

However, many therapists may charge a higher rate depending on the state in which they practice and their level of education and expertise.

Inpatient care

Inpatient hospital treatment can get expensive, depending on the length of your stay. Data from 2016 suggests that a one-week stay for general mental health care can cost an average of $7,100, but inpatient care specifically for eating disorders can be even more expensive, costing an average of $19,400 for 14 days.

Outpatient care

Because outpatient services require less round-the-clock care than inpatient treatment, the cost is generally less than with inpatient care. Some outpatient providers may charge an average of $150 per session. 

Intensive outpatient care, on the other hand, can cost up to $1,500 per week.

However, the total costs of outpatient care for eating disorder treatment will vary greatly depending on what type of therapists, providers, medications, and other services are required.

What Qualifies as an Eating Disorder?

Broadly, eating disorders are defined as mental and physical illnesses that are characterized by severe and persistent disturbances in eating behaviors and the thoughts and emotions around food and eating. 

Anyone can develop an eating disorder regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or body size. However, data suggests that eating disorders are most prevalent in women between the ages of 12 and 35.

There are several different types of eating disorders. Some of the most common eating disorders include:

Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa (also called anorexia) severely avoid or restrict food. In some cases, they can lose significant amounts of weight. But not all people with anorexia will be underweight.

Anorexia is driven by a fear of gaining weight and is often accompanied by body dysmorphia, or an obsessive focus on one’s physical appearance and its imagined or perceived flaws. 

Some people with anorexia will have binge-eating and purging episodes where they eat large amounts of food before vomiting or using medicines to expel what they’ve eaten.

Over time, people with anorexia may lose their periods, become dizzy, develop brittle hair or nails, or experience severe constipation, bloating, and fullness after meals

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa (also called bulimia) is characterized by periods of binge-eating and purging. People with bulimia may use laxatives, diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise to compensate for overeating.

Symptoms of bulimia can include a chronically inflamed and sore throat, worn tooth enamel, and acid reflux disorder. Like anorexia, people with bulimia can live in a range of body sizes.

Binge-eating disorder

Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. Like bulimia, it’s characterized by periods of binge-eating, or eating excessive amounts of food.

Unlike bulimia, people with binge-eating disorder do not experience periods of purging or dangerous compensatory behaviors.

Symptoms of binge-eating disorder include eating meals quickly, eating until uncomfortable or past feelings of comfort, eating when not hungry, and eating alone or in secret.

Individuals that experience binge eating may also experience extreme feelings of guilt and shame after eating. Check out this article to know if you binge eat.

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is an eating disorder in which people severely limit the type or amount of food that they eat.

But unlike people with anorexia, people with ARFID are not driven by a fear of gaining weight but rather an aversion to a food’s taste, smell, or texture.

Children and adults with ARFID may fail to meet basic nutritional needs.

Pica

Pica is an eating disorder characterized by craving or eating non-food items, like paper, plastic, hair, chalk, or metal. In some cases, pica can occur as a result of a nutritional deficiency.

The disorder is most prevalent in children, affecting approximately 25-30% of all children. In children, pica more often occurs alongside an autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability.

In adults, pica can occur during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and experiencing cravings for non-food items, consult your medical provider.  

Common Treatments for Eating Disorders

Before seeking treatment for an eating disorder, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare provider for appropriate diagnosis.

Working with a medical professional for diagnosis can help to inform the best course of treatment given your unique symptoms, health, and personal circumstances.

Treatment plans for eating disorders will be tailored to your individual needs. The most common treatments include:

  • Group, family, or individual psychotherapy.
  • Medical care and monitoring.
  • Nutritional counseling.
  • Medications.

Medical care and monitoring for eating disorders can involve intensive outpatient or inpatient care, partial hospital care, residential care, or non-intensive inpatient care. 

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Will Insurance Cover Eating Disorder Treatment?

Medicare Part A is required to cover inpatient mental health care services. However, the $1,600 deductible for up to two months of care and $400 copayment per day between days 61-90 and $800 copay per day for days 91 and beyond can still make treatment financially inaccessible for many people.

Medicare Part B may also cover part of the costs for psychotherapy, outpatient care, and partial hospitalization. 

Private insurance plans may offer more comprehensive eating disorder coverage, depending on your insurer. 

With Nourish, patients can get outpatient level coverage for eating disorder treatments through their insurance.

How to get insurance to cover treatment

When possible, reach out to your insurance provider before beginning treatment to ensure you select a facility or therapist that’s covered by your insurance.

What to Do if You Don’t Have Insurance

Seeking treatment options for an eating disorder when you don’t have insurance can seem daunting and expensive, but there are some alternatives you can consider:

  • Look for treatment centers that offer discounts or scholarships.
  • Sign up for a local or virtual support group, many of which are offered free-of-charge.
  • Enroll in an eating disorder research study or clinical trial. 
  • If you’re a student, your school or university may offer free or discounted psychotherapy sessions.
  • Reach out to nonprofit eating disorder organizations.
  • Ask a nearby community or federal qualified health center if they offer free or sliding scale therapy.  

Takeaway

Anyone can experience an eating disorder. Though the symptoms can impact your quality of life, there are treatment options that can help. The cost of eating disorder treatment can vary depending on a number of factors, including whether or not you have insurance. 

If you have insurance, you can reach out to your insurer to see what treatment options are included under your coverage. If not, there are other options available, including signing up for a support group or reaching out to a nonprofit eating disorder organization for help. 

For additional support, find a dietitian near you who accepts insurance through Nourish.

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