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Eating disorder support groups: Finding healing in community

Eating disorders like binge eating disorder (BED), anorexia nervosa (AN), and bulimia nervosa (BN), can be extremely isolating due to shame and guilt.1 However, once you take the important first step toward eating disorder recovery, know that you’ll never be alone.

Whether you choose to attend an eating disorder treatment program before joining a recovery community, or opt for a support group right away, eating disorder support groups can provide you with guidance, empowerment, and encouragement throughout your journey. You’ll be surrounded by people who not only understand your struggles and challenges but also want to see you succeed and are there to celebrate you every step of the way.

 minutes read
Last updated on 
November 20, 2023
Eating disorder support group
In this article

What are eating disorder support groups?

An eating disorder support group is an ongoing group meeting focused on eating disorder recovery. Members can sit in, listen to each other, and speak about their own concerns. The idea is for those with similar struggles or experiences to have a forum to speak about their lived truths, learn from one another, offer advice, and create a sense of community and a built-in support network.

Unlike group therapy, which is run by a clinician or therapist, a support group is run by a group leader who is not necessarily a trained therapist, or sometimes a peer who is also in recovery. Some eating disorder support groups are open to anyone who has struggled with one of these conditions whereas others are specific to a type of eating disorder, such as a support group for anorexia nervosa. 

There are also in-person and online support groups available, so no matter where you live, you’ll be able to access a caring and compassionate community of recovering individuals.

Eating disorder support group

What to expect at a support group

Every group is run a bit differently, but generally, you can expect a nonjudgmental and welcoming space where members can share their experiences—both ups and downs—as well as listen to and support others in the group.

Different meetings may cover specialized topics, such as how to practice self-care, tips for working on mental health, dealing with stressors, cultivating a more positive body image, more proactively managing challenging relationships, and more. 

Support groups allow you connect with others in recovery who understand what you're going through.

When you join an eating disorder support group, you can expect an open and encouraging group of people in recovery who understand how isolating and stigmatizing eating disorders can be. They may offer advice, if that’s what you’re looking for, as well as provide a safe space to share your fears, anxieties, triggers, and challenges. You may even meet people who become lifelong friends that come to feel like family members, and people you can call outside of meetings for support.

Different types of eating disorder support groups

Some eating disorder support groups are open to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, whereas others are for specific demographics, such as:

  • LGBTQ+ individuals
  • Black, Indigenous, and people of color
  • Adolescents
  • People living in larger bodies
  • Men-only and women-only
  • Loved ones of people with eating disorders

There are also support groups for specific eating disorders, such as bulimia support groups, anorexia support groups, binge eating support groups, and ARFID support groups.

Benefits of joining an eating disorder support group

Eating disorder support groups can be beautiful and meaningful sites of community that may provide you with support for a short time or for many years. You may discover just what a difference a positive support group can make in your life and your recovery.

Do eating disorder support groups help promote recovery?

Eating disorders can be very alienating and lonely conditions, but support systems, such as those found in eating disorder support groups, can have a significant impact on recovery.

Research has shown that eating disorder support groups offer a safe space for individuals to discuss their lived experiences and that these groups have also proven to decrease isolation and stigma. Research also indicated that peer support groups may increase recovering individuals’ engagement and motivation.4

What to look for in an eating disorder support group

When choosing the right eating disorder support group for you, you’ll first want to consider whether you’d prefer an in-person meeting or an online support group. After that, you’ll want to look for groups that are inclusive and have an experienced facilitator who can address microaggressions and other harmful comments. 

If you belong to a historically marginalized group, you may want to look for an eating disorder support group that caters to you and your needs, creating a safe space for you to share openly.

When considering eating disorder support groups online, you’ll want to consider whether you can participate anonymously or not—some allow it, while others do not. You’ll also want to consider how easy it is to use the platform the meetings are hosted on.

Online eating disorder support groups

Thankfully, if you live in a rural area, are unable to travel to a meeting, or can’t find a meeting that works with your schedule, you have plenty of online eating disorder support groups to choose from. All you need is high-speed internet and you can connect with other people in recovery all around the world, forming safe virtual spaces.

Research indicates that online eating disorder support groups can be beneficial for those in recovery, offering ways to cope with familial pressures, recommendations for treatment, creating and sticking to meal plans, and offering reassurance and support.3

Where to find an eating disorder support group online

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Levine, M. P. (2012). Loneliness and eating disorders. The Journal of Psychology, 146(1-2), 243–257. 
  2. Gilbert, S. (2019). The Importance of Community and Mental Health. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved April 6, 2023.
  3. McCormack, A., & Coulson, N. S. (2009). Individuals with eating disorders and the use of online support groups as a form of social support. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 3(2), 5.
  4. Waller, A., Paganini, C., Andrews, K., & Hutton, V. (2020). The experience of adults recovering from an eating disorder in professionally-led support groups. Qualitative Research Journal, 21(2), 217–229.


Are support groups effective for anorexia nervosa?

Yes, support groups can be effective for people recovering from anorexia nervosa, especially when combined with other forms of support, such as therapy or a professional treatment program for eating disorders.

How do eating disorder support groups help with recovery?

Eating disorder support groups help members to share their lived experiences, benefit from the advice, encouragement, and guidance of others, build community, and process difficult emotions, events, and situations.

Where can I find an eating disorder support group online?

There are countless online eating disorder support groups to choose from, including the many support groups offered at Within Health. Other options include the Aviary (for moms), F.E.A.S.T. Around the Dinner Table forum (for caregivers), Eating Recovery Center, Center for Discovery, Morningside Chats in the Living Room, and National Alliance for Eating Disorders.

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Further reading

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