The Lack of Eating Disorder Treatment in the Midwest

Gabby Carlson and Kaitlyn Menz, two college students, share their story over their eating disorder recovery journey.

Eating disorders are a prevalent issue in today’s society. Many people aren’t aware of the serious impacts these disorders have on young adults and kids. According to, ten million females and one million males struggle with an eating disorder in the United States People in the Midwest struggling with eating disorders tend to lack one thing: a treatment facility close to them. In general, education surrounding eating disorders, what they are, and how they affect people is also lacking.

To understand different treatment methods, it’s crucial to understand the differences between types of eating disorders. According to health-line, the differences between anorexia and bulimia are described as “people who have anorexia severely reduce their food intake to lose weight. People who have bulimia eat an excessive amount of food in a short period of time, then purge or use other methods to prevent weight gain.” Treatment needs to be available because any category of an eating disorder can be dangerous and deadly.

College students Gabby Carlson and Kaitlyn Menz have both struggled with an eating disorder during the past few years of their lives. The biggest issue with getting the right treatment is the fact that Iowa and the Midwest in general severely lack eating disorder treatment centers. Gabby says, ““There is only one inpatient treatment center in Iowa, it’s at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics. It’s basically um, they have two general psych wards, one for adolescents and one for adults.”

Iowa is one of the midwestern states that severely lacks in care because of the poor funding to mental health institutions and treatment centers. Michelle Roling, co-founder of Eating Disorders Coalition of Iowa, says in interview with the Des Moines Register that, “With only the University of Iowa offering inpatient services, Iowa lacks treatment options and many families travel out of state for care. There’s also a need for partial hospitalization programs as a transition step.” Kaitlyn agrees that there needs to be more attention on these programs. Kaitlyn says, “I do definitely think that the Midwest needs better treatment centers. When you talk to people in the Midwest I don’t think there are a whole lot of options.”

Whether it be Iowa, or another Midwestern state, eating disorder treatment facilities need to become more readily available for those who need it. Both Gabby and Kaitlyn have seen progress in their journey battling their eating disorders—but this may not have been the case if they didn’t have the means to travel to treatment centers. Ending the stigma and presumptions around eating disorders as well as mental illnesses needs to be our first step.

Photo courtesy of Ctjif83 via Wikimedia Commons. Everywhere In Between graphic by Mia Tirado.

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