Online and Virtual Apps for Treating Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect about 9% of Americans, which adds up to about 29 million people. [ANAD] Eating disorders are one of the deadliest mental illnesses, which means access to effective treatment is extremely important. [1]

There can be several barriers to accessing treatment, such as mental health stigma, insurance coverage, or location. Sometimes people in rural areas don’t have a realistic or feasible way to attend treatment due to treatment centers being too far away. Online treatment, resources, and eating disorder recovery apps can bridge the gap.

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Virtual Eating Disorder Treatment

The type of eating disorder treatment you receive should depend on how severe your eating disorder is. If you need residential treatment, this would require you to live onsite. However, if outpatient treatment is a good fit for you then virtual treatment could be an option. There are three different levels of outpatient treatment:

  • Partial hospitalization (PHP)- The name is misleading as this level doesn’t involve being in the hospital. PHP programs typically provide treatment for the majority of the day, five to six days per week.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)- IOP programs provide care for a few hours per day, three to five days per week.
  • Outpatient- Outpatient providers, such as doctors, therapists, or registered dietitians (RDs) may see clients weekly, biweekly, or once per month.

PHP and IOP programs are offered through eating disorder treatment centers. Some treatment centers have virtual PHP and IOP programs. If you want to find one, you can search “virtual eating disorder treatment” or ask your insurance provider for referrals for virtual treatment.

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Apps for Eating Disorder Recovery

There are several apps that can help during your recovery. Here are three suggestions:

Within Health: A modern, convenient, and clinically-superior virtual eating disorder treatment program. 

Within was created intentionally to be an entirely virtual eating disorder treatment program designed to make care accessible to more people, wherever that live.

  • Technology supported and enhanced treatment
  • Secure, responsive connections to our Clinical Care Team
  • Digital companions & real world support
  • Experiential activities with our care partners
  • Remote client monitoring via supplied devices
  • Individual and group psychotherapy sessions
  • Meal delivery with digitally-supported nutritional oversight

Rise Up + Recover: An Eating Disorder Monitoring and Management tool for Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, and EDNOS

Rise Up + Recover was created by Recovery Warriors. This app is based on self-monitoring homework, which is a technique used in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This app allows you to:

  • Log your meals, emotions, and behaviors
  • Export PDF summaries of your meals and check-ins with your treatment team
  • Set reminders to keep you motivated and encouraged
  • Find support nearby

Recovery Record: Eating Disorder Management

Recovery record can be useful for all eating disorder diagnoses. You can use this app for self-help or you can link it with your treatment team so they are in the loop. This app offers:

  • Meal records
  • Customizable meal plans, coping skills, and goals
  • View charts that highlight progress and insights
  • Set personalized reminders
  • Receive in-the-moment feedback and messages from your treatment team if you’ve linked the app with a provider
  • Receive and send encouraging messages and virtual gifts to other users

Brighter Bite- ED Recovery

The benefits of Brighter Bite include:

  • Coping skills based in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), two evidence-based treatment approaches
  • Mood and thought records
  • Export data to PDF files

person holding tablet with low carb diet on screen

Online Resources

Certain online resources can be helpful during the recovery process. While it’s not a substitute for professional treatment, any form of support can be helpful! Some available online resources are:

  • Recovery Warriors: Recovery Warriors (RW) is an online platform dedicated to providing recovery related resources. RW has a host of resources, such as courses you can purchase related to body image, coping skills, and a whole bunch of other helpful topics. RW also offers the School of Recovery, which includes live mentorship or online programs. It’s important to check with a qualified treatment provider to see if these programs would be a good fit for you.
  • Online support groups: Some treatment centers offer online support groups. Support groups are an opportunity to give and receive support to other people going through eating disorder recovery. These groups are not therapy groups.

There are many resources available to help you during your recovery journey. Different resources may be helpful during certain steps of your process, while others may not be. It can be discouraging to try something and for it to not work, but it’s important to keep trying.

While online resources and apps are helpful, they’re not a replacement for professional care. Eating disorders are serious mental and medical conditions that should be treated appropriately.

[1] National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. (2021). Eating Disorder Statistics. Retrieved August 30th, 2022 from https://anad.org/eating-disorders-statistics/