Starting college comes with many adjustments, from leaving home, family, and friends to adjusting to a new town, city, and daily routine. This shake-up can be incredibly overwhelming for many. So, how does a person deal with dorm living and bulimia recovery when they first get to college?
You are not the only one on your college campus with this struggle, as 8% to 17% of college students report struggling with an eating disorder . In fact, participants in one study revealed an over-arching theme that “the university environment affected their ED (eating disorder) behaviors .”
Not only that, stressful life events, college included, are associated with disordered eating behaviors “as a way to cope or reduce negative emotions .” Even so, it is possible to participate in the excitement of college and navigate this transition without relapse.
Make a Plan for Dorm Living and Bulimia Recovery
Just as you made a plan for where you will go to college, what classes you will take, and what you needed for your dorm, it will help you adjust to dorm life if you make a plan for your recovery.
- Does the city or town you are moving to have eating disorder support groups, dieticians, therapists, etc.?
- Will your treatment team from home be accessible to you via telephone or possible telehealth appointments if need-be?
- What is the situation with the dining hall, meal swipes, dining dollars, or kitchen areas of your dorm?
- How will you maintain or experience accountability when you are there without parents, loved ones, or your treatment team?
- Who can you call when you need support from home?
All of this information is undoubtedly available and likely just a click, phone call, or conversation away.
Work with anyone currently involved in your recovery to consider the questions or problems that may arise and help you plan for this before move-in day.
Know Your Campus Supports
Campuses have tons of supports because this exciting life transition can be tough for everyone.
Each dorm floor has a Resident Advisor (RA), normally an upper-classman, whose job it is to help you navigate all of the changes that come with college.
This can include roommate troubles, questions on school functions, clubs, and classes, or information on mental health or recovery resources. It can also include dorm living and bulimia recovery.
All colleges also offer mental health support, often even providing a certain number of therapy sessions per semester included in the tuition price.
Reach out to Student Services, your advisor, your RA, or a professor that you trust to get guidance on what support and services your university provides for those working through recovery and getting their degree.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
College is rife with opportunities to meet new people, but recovery teaches most that you shouldn’t surround yourself with just anyone.
As you engage in on-campus organizations, dorm events, classes, parties, and functions, you could be blindsided with meanness, diet-culture talk, and negativity.
If this happens, don’t be afraid to make the call that those might not be your people.
This can especially be true with roommates, who we often don’t get to choose. If you have an opportunity through a student portal, try to engage with potential roommates beforehand to see their stance on eating disorders, diet culture, and mental health.
You might also find yourself in a situation where your roommate is harmful to your recovery.
If this happens, it is okay to reach out to your RA about speaking with your roommate or possibly switching rooms.
This doesn’t have to be done in a mean way.
Show these people kindness, but keep putting yourself out there to find the people that will best enhance your beautiful soul, your recovery, and your life.
This is an amazing time in your life, and you deserve to shine in it instead of bulimia taking the spotlight. It is possible to achieve, or maintain, recovery while heading off to college and beginning dorm life.
Resources: Eisenberg, D. et al. (2011). Eating disorder symptoms among college students: prevalence, persistence, correlates, and treatment-seeking. Journal of American College Health, 59:8.  Goldschen, L. et al. (2019). Navigating the university transition among women who self-report an eating disorder: a qualitative study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 52:7.  Berge, J. M. (2011). Family life cycle transitions and the onset of eating disorders: a retrospective grounded theory approach. Journal of Clinician Nursing, 21: 9-10.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a 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.
Published August 13, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on August 13, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC