Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Director of Content and Social Media at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope
College students are no strangers to the chaotic and overwhelming schedules that come with college life. A majority of college students learn to manage multiple things at once, including academics, social life, growing a potential career, working, sports and more, all in addition to developing a greater sense of autonomy and independence.
For the college student who may be susceptible to developing an eating disorder, the many stressors and transitions that occur during the college years can be both triggering and overwhelming to deal with.
Being Aware of Eating Disorder Signs in College Students
As a parent or guardian of a college-aged student, this can be a time of great transition as well. Supporting your child into greater independency while also watching out for their well-being can be a difficult thing to balance.
If you child is attending college nearby, you may find it easier to see your student more consistently. For college students who are studying out of town or in more remote locations, regular communicate can be a bit more challenging, as is not seeing your student on a more consistent basis.
Many parents may not be aware of the potential presence of an eating disorder until more obvious signs are noticed after a period of time. For example, a college student who only comes home for holiday vacations may have more apparent signs of an eating disorder compared to a college student who might be living at home.
Some of the most important things to be aware of include how your child acts around food and events in which food presence is available. Has your child’s eating habits changed slowly or drastically? Does your child seem anxious around food, appear distressed about eating, or become obsessive with calories and dieting fads?
Encouraging Eating Disorder Treatment
The reality is that eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, are chronic diseases that require professional treatment for intervention. Many college students may feel as though they are “fine” and able to function despite a raging eating disorder. It is important to note that while you observe changes in your child that are troubling or worrisome, your child may deny any issues at hand. Denial can be part of the eating disorder itself.
Consider having an open, honest, and loving conversation with your child about what they might be experiencing and going through. Having a specialized time and location for a talk like this may help your words of concern be more acceptable rather than putting on the spot.
If you are having trouble communicating your concerns, consider bringing in another member of the family who can help support what you are hoping to share. Above all, remind yourself that eating disorders are not caused by family members. If you notice a concerning behavior in your own college student, be sure to reach out to your loved one and discuss these thoughts honestly and openly, as well as options for treatment and support.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What are ways to encourage a college student to get the help they need for an eating disorder?
About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.
As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 25, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com