Breaking the Silence: Recognizing Mental Health Benefits in the Battle Against Eating Disorders

A white plate sitting next to silverware with yellow measuring tape wrapped around it on a yellow background.President Biden proclaimed that this week, National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, is an essential time to shed light on this serious health issue that affects nearly 1 in 10 individuals across America. Eating disorders not only impact your physical health but also your emotional and psychological well-being. As we raise awareness about this issue, it's crucial to recognize that eating disorders are mental health conditions and therefore treatment of an eating disorder is a mental health benefit covered by mental health parity laws.

Mental health parity generally requires that mental health and substance use disorder benefits are provided in a similar way as medical and surgical benefits in group health plans. This means that when you seek treatment for eating disorders, such as therapy, medications, nutritional counseling, or residential treatment programs, you should not face barriers or roadblocks that don’t exist for medical treatments. For example, if a health plan provides coverage for nutritional counseling for someone with diabetes, it cannot have a blanket exclusion for coverage of nutritional counseling for those with eating disorders. Understanding your rights under the law is important so you and your family can receive the mental health benefits and services you are entitled to.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) offers resources to help you learn about your mental health benefits and your rights, including the publication "Understanding Your Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits".  This resource provides information on using mental health services covered by your job-based health plan. For parents, family members or other caregivers for someone in need of or using mental health or substance use disorder benefits, "Understanding Parity: A Guide to Resources for Families and Caregivers," provides information and tools necessary to secure behavioral health services for their loved ones.

EBSA also has benefits advisors who can answer your questions and assist with issues with your plan.  You can reach benefits advisors online or by calling 1-866-444-3272. As we observe National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, let’s spread awareness of treatments and rights to these important mental health benefits so we can make sure everyone gets the health care they need.

For those in need of support, visit or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for confidential, free, 24/7 information and referral services. Additionally, if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, immediate help is available by calling or texting 988, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, for confidential support and assistance.

Lisa M. Gomez is the assistant secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration