National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: History

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, (ANAD) is a non-profit (501 c 3) organization working in the areas of support, awareness, advocacy, referral, education, and prevention.

ANAD is the oldest organization aimed at fighting eating disorders in the United States. ANAD assists people struggling with eating disorders and also provides resources for families, schools and the eating disorder community.

In the early 1970s, Vivian Hanson Meehan, ANAD’s founder, was a nurse at a hospital in Highland Park, Illinois. When a family member was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, Vivian was unable to find any information or resources on eating disorders. Support was unavailable. She was told by experts, “Anorexia Nervosa is so rare that there are probably no more than 2000 cases of Anorexia Nervosa in the United States – you are wasting your time.”

Vivian decided to do something simple to see if the experts were right: she placed a small classified ad in a local newspaper looking for others who were searching for information about Anorexia Nervosa. Within days that tiny ad generated 8 responses from those struggling with eating disorders and family members in her community. A national magazine picked up on the story and Vivian was deluged by thousands of phone calls and letters. She opened up her home and her heart and launched the first helpline and referral service in the nation for Anorexia Nervosa and associated eating disorders.

The small support group Vivian founded in her home went on to establish groups across the nation. These groups continue to provide peer-to-peer support and self-help for the individuals and families affected by eating disorders and are available at no cost.

ANAD continues today into its third generation of leadership both at the Executive Director and Executive Board level, and carries on Vivian’s legacy by continuing to offer free support groups and a national helpline.

The current leadership team at ANAD is helping ANAD advance and grow into ANAD 2.0 which includes new free support programs (Grocery Buddy, Recovery Mentorship, and a YouTube Recovery Channel) and is keeping up with the times by increasing ANAD’s presence and educational outreach and advocacy online.