Can I Apply For Disability When Recovering From an Eating Disorder?

Applying for disability

There is no questioning that eating disorders result in severe consequences that can have a debilitating effect on all aspects of a person’s life. From the physical effects to the mental, emotional, and psychological stressors, the process of recovering from an eating disorder is exhaustive.

What are your options in recovery when you have a job and career at stake?

Is it possible to have financial support during the most intensive parts of your eating disorder recovery journey in order to maintain job security?

Applying for and receiving disability may be one means to help support you as you take the time you need for recovery.

Understanding How Disability Works

Social Security will pay disability benefits to individuals who cannot work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year [1]. The Social Security Administration’s impairment listing manual includes a number of both mental and physical ailments that will qualify an individual for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A person’s condition must meet the specified criteria for a listing in order to be eligible to receive these benefits.

When it comes to eating disorders, there is not a dedicated listing that automatically qualifies an individual for these benefits, which can make the situation more challenging. However, Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider an eating disorder as potentially disabling in light of the physical, mental, and/or psychological symptoms that could disable you. In order to qualify for disability, the SSA looks at two key factors:

  • Does the condition meet a disability listing, OR
  • Do you have a condition that is the medical equivalent to a listed disability, OR
  • Can you prove your impairments are so severe that they prevent you from working

Common Listings Under Which an Eating Disorder May Be Approved

There are listings already approved by the SSA under which an eating disorder may qualify. These include but are not limited to:

  • Chronic Heart Failure
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Recurrent Arrhythmias
  • Chronic Anemia
  • Weight Loss Due to any digestive disorder
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding

In order to be approved for any such listings, the condition must be well documented in your medical records in order to show fulfilment of the criteria described for each listing.

Applying onlineIf you are needing and/or relying on social security benefits to support you while you seek treatment for your eating disorder, work closely with your physician and treatment team to determine how your symptoms are affecting your everyday abilities. Because of the lack of a dedicated listing for eating disorders in the SSA, you may find it challenging to qualify for benefits.

Resources, such as a social security advocate or attorney who is familiar with these types of claims can help you prepare a case for the SSD as well as work through paperwork and requests needed to prepare your application.

Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!

Have you been able to secure disability while in recovery from an eating disorder? How did this help you?

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: Social Security Administration Office, “Disability Benefits”,

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 12, 2017
Published on