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Virtual therapy for eating disorders offers new hope

February 27, 2024 | 3 min read

Eating disorders (EDs) are more than abnormal eating habits. Whether its anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, or some other eating disorder, they’re serious mental health conditions that affect nearly 1 in 10 Americans. These disorders also have the second highest mortality rate among mental illnesses and have been on the rise, especially among young people.[1,2] Yet only about 20% of those suffering actually receive treatment.[3,4]

The statistics make it clear: there’s an urgent need for increased access to eating disorder therapy. Unfortunately, traditional treatments often pose significant barriers due to their intensive nature, high costs, and geographical limitations.

Supporting the diversity of people affected by EDs

Virtual treatments are revolutionizing eating disorder therapy by increasing accessibility and inclusivity, particularly for those who face increased barriers to care. Contrary to common misconceptions, eating disorders affect diverse individuals, irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, or body type. You can’t figure out if someone has an eating disorder based solely on their appearance. Online therapy ensures care for all and makes it easy for them to connect with culturally competent therapists.

Reducing diagnosis delays and difficulties

The current healthcare landscape can make it difficult to get treated for an eating disorder. Just getting diagnosed can take three years or more. That’s because people are slow to recognize when they or their family member have an eating disorder and some healthcare professionals may lack awareness. Delays in diagnosis can lead to people not seeking treatment until the situation has become dire.

When someone does get diagnosed, they face an overwhelmed brick and mortar treatment landscape. Full-time residential treatment centers are often out of reach due to location and costs and have waitlists that are more than three months long. The impact of this expensive, difficult to find and access care can be devastating.

  • 50% of patients usually relapse within a year of treatment

  • 50% of adolescents with an eating disorder have suicide ideation

  • 21% of parents quit work to manage their child’s behavioral health needs

Using telehealth to overcome barriers to ED treatment

Historically, treatment has consisted mostly of intensive residential programs or outpatient options. These programs can be difficult to access with treatment center wait lists stretching into weeks or months, putting the individual at risk for hospitalization in the meantime. Additionally, people seeking treatment and their family members, if they are an adolescent, must move temporarily if the residential facility isn’t close to their home. And treatment can cost up to an average of $2,000 a day, with a typical stay at this type of facility lasting 30 days.[5]

The emergence of virtual eating disorder treatment options such as Equip expands the treatment landscape, offering convenience, affordability, and increased privacy. Through virtual treatment, individuals get unparalleled access, faster intake processes, flexible scheduling, and more. To learn more about how virtual eating disorder therapy reduces access barriers and allows people to get treatment from the comfort of their home, watch our webinar.

[1] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1107207

[2] https://pennstatehealthnews.org/2023/03/the-medical-minute-eating-disorders-on-the-rise/

[3] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/eating-disorders/facts-about-eating-disorders-in-adolescents

[4] https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/a-life-and-death-measure-eating-disorder-treatment

[5] https://www.theprojectheal.org/cost-of-treatment

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