Eating disorders are a health concern that are usually not discussed. Most people have no idea that they may have someone in their family suffering from an eating disorder. Many only find out when telltale physical or mental health signs start to appear.
If you are here today reading this article, then you or somebody you know have probably been affected by an eating disorder. Maybe not personally, but someone in your life has suffered.
If you are worried about getting life insurance after an eating disorder, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to discuss the types of disorders, how they affect getting life insurance, and how they affect your rates.
What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a mental illness that becomes a physical illness as it progresses. Left undiagnosed, it can lead to sometimes unrepairable health problems and even death.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), as many as 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. alone will be affected at some point in their lives.
Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common and recognized eating disorders. It is also the number one killer out of all mental disorders, by either starving to death or committing suicide.
Getting life insurance with an eating disorder can be difficult, but not impossible. There are many life insurance companies to choose from and each has its own rules and guidelines. Finding the right insurance company who works best with your health issues will ensure the best chance of getting approved.
There are several recognized eating disorders in the United States. Below, we discuss the most common and widely known eating disorders, including symptoms and warning signs. Then, we’ll tell you what to expect when applying, what rating to expect, and what happens if you are denied.
This disorder is a restriction of calories or specific types of food. Most people who suffer have a distorted image of what their body actually looks like. Signs of the disorder can include:
- Laxative use
- Compulsive exercise to keep weight down
Symptoms for anorexia are:
- Dramatic weight loss
- Dressing in layers to hide weight loss or to stay warm, even in temperate climates
- Restrictive with certain foods
- Not wanting to eat in public
- Frequent comments about feeling fat or overweight even when losing weight
- Stomach and digestive issues
- Excessive exercising routine
- Cooking food for people but not eating
- Develops food rituals – eating in a specific order, excessive chewing, moving food around without eating it
This disorder is a cycle of bingeing on food followed by purging (vomiting) to undo the binge eating. Signs of the disorder can include:
- Use of laxatives or diuretics
- Compulsive exercise
- Eating a huge amount of food in a small period of time
- Self-induced vomiting to compensate for binge eating
- Steals or hoards food
- Disappears after eating (typically to purge in the bathroom)
- Evidence of bingeing
- Cutting out entire food groups for no reason
Symptoms of bulimia:
- Cold hands and feet, regardless of warm climate
- Dry skin, hair, and nails
- Thinning and brittle hair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Frequent stomach cramps
- Weakened immune system
- Wounds take much longer to heal than normal
- Discolored or stained teeth
- Fluid retention bloating
- Extreme mood swings
Binge Eating Disorder
This is the most common and newly recognized food disorders. It is recurring episodes of eating excessive amounts of food without taking measures to purge. Warning signs include:
- Eating alone
- Excessive amounts of food
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating when not hungry
- Consuming food more rapidly than normal
- Feeling remorse, guilt, shame or disgust after eating
Symptoms for a binge disorder:
- Noticeable weight fluctuations
- Frequent stomach cramps
- Feelings of low self-esteem
- Frequent checks in the mirror to criticize weight and perceived flaws
- Fear of eating in public
- Frequent dieting
- Yo-yo dieting
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Evidence of binge eating – large amounts of food go missing, lots of empty wrappers hidden
This disorder is a compulsion for healthy eating to the detriment of your health and well being. Many who suffer from this eating disorder also have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Warning signs include:
- Removing entire food groups at increasing numbers
- Obsessively reading about food online and social media
- Obsessing over nutrition labels and ingredients
- Serious restriction of foods actually “okay” to consume
- Fixating on what others eat, especially when not healthy foods
With this disorder, people eat things with no nutritional value that are also not typically thought of as food. Items that pica sufferers may eat are:
- Clothing fibers
People with pica tend to have nutrient or vitamin deficiency. They may also suffer from iron deficiency anemia. People also may have other mental disorders with impaired functioning including:
- Autism spectrum
- Intellectual disability
Can I Get Life Insurance with an Eating Disorder?
If you are currently working through an eating disorder or have been in recovery for less than 24 months, you likely will not qualify for traditional life insurance.
If this is the case, then you will probably have to get guaranteed issue life insurance. Once you are far enough into recovery with no relapses, you should then try for traditional life insurance.
Guaranteed issue life insurance is a good choice if you need coverage now and can’t wait. You might not get the coverage amount you need and it can be expensive, but something is better than nothing. Keep reading to find out more about this life insurance option and if it’s right for you.
Once you’ve reached over 24 months without a relapse, you can apply for traditional life insurance. Your current health, family history, and past medical history will be reviewed by an underwriter to determine your rate.
Be prepared that you will have to answer additional health questions on the application.
Additional Health Questions
When completing your life insurance application, here are some questions you’ll need to answer about your eating disorder:
- What type of eating disorder were you diagnosed with?
- When were you diagnosed?
- Do you have any other mental or physical disorders?
- Were you ever hospitalized due to your eating disorder? When and for how long?
- Were you ever admitted to a rehabilitation center? When and for how long?
- Are you currently seeing a therapist? Who?
- What symptoms have you had in the past year?
- Do you take any medications for this or other health problems?
- Have you had any lab tests and if so, what are the results?
- Have you been following the treatment plan your doctor laid out for you?
Once your application is submitted you will then have to do a medical exam. After that, an underwriter will review your application, medical history, exam results, and come up with a rate and price.
The underwriter will look at all the information and determine your mortality risk. If they feel you are at risk of dying before your life expectancy, they will give you a higher rating.
Taking medication for an eating disorder or another health concern? Check out our article about how medications affect your chances of getting approved for life insurance.
What Rate Can I Expect?
You likely will not qualify for this rate. Even if you are in great health now and have more than two years of post-eating disorder.
Unfortunately, most companies consider the chance of relapse high with eating disorders. They reserve this rate for people in the best health and will consider your case too risky.
You might have a chance of getting this rate. You have to be in great health, have not had a relapse in over five years, and not have any other health issues.
You can qualify for this rate. If you have not had a recurrence in over five or more years and are in great health otherwise. You might have a small health issue that is not considered a mortality risk.
Substandard or Table Rating
This is the rate you will most likely qualify for. This is especially true if it has been less than five years since you overcame your eating disorder.
The rate you get will depend on:
- Your current health
- If you are a smoker or not
- If you are taking any medications
- Any risky behavior you take part in (dangerous recreational sports, visiting certain countries, etc.)
- If you have any family history of other illnesses
A substandard rating can be from A to J, with A being the least expensive and J being the most expensive.
There is a chance you can be denied for life insurance with an eating disorder. We strongly advise not to apply for traditional life insurance until you have been two years out of your eating disorder. For most companies, the risk is just too high and it is almost a guaranteed denial.
However, if you are still not in the best health or have other health concerns, you can still be denied.
If that happens, don’t panic. There is still another option available.
What Can I Do if I’m Denied?
A life insurance denial can sometimes be shocking. Know that it’s not the end of the world and there are other ways to get insured.
One thing you can do to prevent a denial is to work with an insurance agent. The agent will take your current and past health history into account when searching for companies. They can help find an insurance carrier who is more willing to work with your health concerns.
A carrier that is more lenient with eating disorders will have looser underwriting guidelines. That means you are more likely to not only get approved but get a better rating than with other companies.
So, what can you do if you apply and are still denied?
Remember earlier when we talked about guaranteed issue life insurance? If that is an option in your state, it’s something to consider. The price is higher because there are no health questions involved. You apply, agree to the rate, and are approved.
The coverage amount is usually capped at $50,000 and it might be more expensive than you expect. But, if you need something in place until you get better, it’s a good option to have.
If you are considering guaranteed issue life insurance, make sure to read our article all about it. That way, you can find out more details, things to consider, and why it might be your best option.