How the Cost-of-Living Crisis Impacts Eating Disorder Recovery

by | 7 Jun 2023 | Eating Disorders | 2 comments

As a busy professional, I’m always juggling a lot of different responsibilities – from seeing clients to conducting research, teaching, and even trying to move house!  But despite all the craziness, there’s one thing I always find myself wishing for: more time to write.  So, today I took a few moments to write a blog post about how the cost-of-living crisis can be an added strain on those with Eating Disorders (well, it is a strain on most of us, but especially those with Eating Disorders).

Let’s get into it:

It might initially seem like a click-bait reach to be tying together the topic of Eating Disorders with the current cost of living crisis but the reality is that the amount of financial privilege (or hardship) a person has can be directly impactful in their Eating Disorder recovery.  I think most of my readers will likely be aware that Eating Disorder recovery is a challenging venture that requires a significant investment in time and effort… but it also requires a pretty hefty financial investment on many fronts.

Let’s start by thinking about access to Eating Disorder services – While it’s true that NHS Eating Disorder services in the UK are theoretically free to access, it’s crucial to recognise that there are still financial considerations that may arise when utilising this care.  These considerations include expenses such as that of transportation and the potential loss of working hours (perhaps for both the individual with the Eating Disorder and a support person).  The frequency of appointments (and therefore the cost) can vary from occasional to daily, depending on the individual’s needs and the availability of services.  Since services are not necessarily available in all areas there is also the usual postcode lottery as to whether the closest service is a short walk, a moderate bus ride, or a lengthy drive away – again another factor which may impact the actual cost of being able to access the ‘free’ care.  This is all, of course assuming you meet the referral criteria for NHS Eating Disorder services (which many do not) and so brings us on to the cost of private care.

Private care might be a necessity – due to lack of available or suitable services or long waiting list (often months, if not more than a year for adults) – or it might be a personal preference.  Irrespective, the cost of such services can quickly mount up, often ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds per month.  As you would expect, the more the person is struggling, the more sessions with professionals they may require for help and support.  It is even possible a person could find themselves needing to access daily care (or stay in hospital) and therefore be unable to meet work commitments regularly (if at all).










The costs don’t stop here though.  For many individuals in recovery, sticking to a meal plan is essential, and that often means including higher cost items such as fresh produce or specialty products.  While this might be manageable for some, the recent surge in food prices has made it increasingly difficult for people to afford to eat in the way prescribed to them as part of their Eating Disorder recovery.  For those attempting to gain weight, larger amounts of food may also be needed and it is also commonplace to challenge clients to eat out (which would need to be regularly repeated in order to face the fear) which comes at yet…you guessed it….more cost.

Should a person not be able to afford to stick to their meal plan (assuming that financially they had managed sufficiently well to even see a professional), this is likely to significantly slow down or even halt a person’s recovery journey.

For some the financial stress of the above can exacerbate existing anxiety and even trigger eating disorder symptoms.  Not having the financial means to complete a meal plan may become an issue which serves to collude with a person’s Eating Disorder behaviours and enables some to justify to themselves a return to restrictive or emotional eating habits.

Additionally, it may be that a factor in a person’s environment or personal life is contributing to their mental health struggles but they can’t get out of that situation because of the ever-increasing cost of living.  Let’s say, for example, an emotionally abusive work environment can’t be left because the person cannot afford to go without their wage packet.

This is just the general tip of the iceberg and we can help our clients to find ways to manage their anxiety, such as mindfulness practices, breathing techniques, and other coping strategies… but we can’t pay the bills for them and the reality is we have to charge for our time to pay our own bills too.

As a professional working with individuals in Eating Disorder recovery, it is therefore becoming essential to be informed about local charities, food banks, and other resources that can help support individuals through these financially difficult times – not something I had regularly had to factor into my private practice work until recent years.  If this is something you hadn’t considered before and don’t have the information on, I’d encourage you to find an hour this week to explore the information available.

I feel this above presented reality may only serve to fuel the development of Eating Disorders and I can just imagine the already ever-increasing prevalence of Eating Disorders becoming even higher.


  1. Carlene

    I think it’s also important to highlight that PIP stops if you are in hospital but the bills don’t

    • Kel_MHB

      Yes – this is indeed true.


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Kel O'Neill

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