The High Cost Of Eating Disorders

By Victoria Kim 03/08/18

A recent essay brought to light the financial burden shouldered by people battling eating disorders.

close up of woman hiding her face behind us dollar money fan

There’s a hidden cost to living with eating disorders. Aside from the detriment to one’s health, as well as the mental burden, there’s also the financial cost of continuing this cycle.

“The high cost of eating disorders has long gone ignored, but can include a whole range of expenses including binge foods, laxatives, diet teas or pills, clothes of different sizes (as a result of weight fluctuations), gym memberships, or memberships to dieting groups,” writes Sophie Jackson in a recent essay in The Independent

“The endless cycle of buying food I knew I didn’t need or want, making myself ill, running out of money and doing it all over again felt like something I would never escape,” she continued. “The financial burden only heightened my stress, thereby encouraging the disordered behaviors that I unwillingly used to cope with stress in the first place.”

The racking up of debt and reckless spending is a common trait among people with bulimia in particular, explained one eating disorder expert. “There tends to be an impulsivity that goes hand-in-hand with bulimia,” said Melainie Rogers, founder and CEO of Balance eating disorder treatment center in New York, according to Market Watch.

And the cost of treatment is another thing—for people who can afford it. Rogers explained that one month of treatment can reach $20,000 at Balance, a price tag she said is typical for New York.

Sunday (March 4) marked the end of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), 30 million Americans live with eating disorders, defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors.”

At their worst, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can cause thinning of the bones, damage to vital organs, infertility, and death. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder.

Some free ED resources include the NEDA helpline (800-931-2237), and Project Heal, which offers financial support for people who need treatment for eating disorders.

With more awareness, and the rejection of traditional/unrealistic beauty standards, more are beginning to speak up about overcoming unhealthy body image, like pop star Demi Lovato and Riverdale actress Camila Mendes.

In February, Mendes announced that she’s “done dieting” after revealing last October that she has long struggled with eating disorders.

“I’m done believing in the idea that there’s a thinner, happier version of me on the other side of all the tireless effort,” she said.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr