We Need to Talk About Eating Disorder Treatment Barriers

March 15, 2024 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

It took me several years of personal growth and cultural awareness to realize there are systemic barriers to eating disorder treatment. My battle with anorexia was painful and tumultuous, but access to therapeutic interventions made the healing journey feel possible. While I am immensely grateful for this, I also cannot brush aside the conspicuous reality that certain prohibitive eating disorder treatment barriers still exist.

Eating disorder treatment methods were conventionally built for patients like me—and that’s a serious problem. This harrowing mental illness can hook its claws into anyone, so we need to talk about eating disorder treatment barriers in order to make healing resources more accessible and inclusive for all types of sufferers out there.

Becoming Aware of Eating Disorder Treatment Barriers

When I entered the intake office of an eating disorder treatment facility in 2010, the admissions process began immediately. As a sick teenager, this felt too overwhelming to comprehend, but now, as an adult, I recognize that my illness was taken seriously because I resembled a common anorexic stereotype. I was visibly frail, gaunt, weak, and malnourished—not to mention White and privately insured through both of my parents. 

That privilege fast-tracked me into a secure therapeutic environment, which ultimately helped me recover. But others are not as fortunate due to archaic stigmas or harmful eating disorder treatment barriers. Not everyone has financial or logistical access to the resources and assistance I received almost 15 years ago, and this inequity can lead to severe consequences. 

The Need to Confront Eating Disorder Treatment Barriers

Eating disorders are some of the most fatal psychiatric conditions, but over 80 percent of those who suffer do so without any clinical intervention.1 Members of marginalized communities are often the most vulnerable to eating disorder treatment barriers. To give just one example, youth of color in low-socioeconomic areas are less than two-thirds as likely to undergo treatment as their White peers. Even worse, many receive no diagnosis at all.

These illnesses do not discriminate—all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, body sizes, age brackets, and physical abilities can be susceptible to eating disorder behaviors. As such, healing measures must reflect the specific needs of these various demographics, whose unique stories and experiences intrinsically matter. When we talk about eating disorder treatment barriers in our wider mainstream society, we can then mobilize to start dismantling them.


  1. Fitzsimmons-Craft, E., et al (2019). Adolescents and young adults engaged with pro-eating disorder social media: eating disorder and co-morbid psychopathology, health care utilization, treatment barriers, and opinions on harnessing technology for treatment. Eating and Weight Disorders, 25(6).
  2. Moreno, R., et al (2023). Disparities in access to eating disorders treatment for publicly-insured youth and youth of color: a retrospective cohort study. Journal of Eating Disorders, 11(1).

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2024, March 15). We Need to Talk About Eating Disorder Treatment Barriers, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 30 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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