College Roommates: How to Help Your Roommate Who May Have an Eating Disorder

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope

Men who may be struggling with an eating disorder face unique challenges and obstacles. When at the college level, some of these challenges may be related to the stigmas, stereotypes and shame that often surround eating disorders. For college-aged men, it may be difficult to know where to find help or who to talk with about a battle against an eating disorder.

Roommates may be some of the first individuals to identify that something is wrong with the people they are living with. Changes in daily habits and routines, such as eating, sleeping, hygiene, exercise and more may give clues to a greater problem or challenge.

Eating Disorder Behaviors: Various and Complex

For men who might be dealing with an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder, various behaviors may be present that will become more obvious to the people whom they are living with.

If you are unsure if your roommate may be struggling with an eating disorder, be aware of subtle changes or behaviors, such as the following:

  • Avoidance of food, eating, or any social functions that involve food
  • Disappearance of a large quantity of food
  • Frequent use of the bathroom after meals
  • Obsession with weight and body image
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise
  • Co-occurring mood disturbances, such as increased anxiety or depression
  • Ritualistic behaviors with food, such as hoarding, excessive cutting or portioning

Early Intervention for Eating Disorder Symptoms

These behaviors may be indicative of an eating disorder, and early intervention is important for treatment and recovery. As a roommate who may witness these behaviors firsthand, it is important to offer support and gentle encouragement towards professional help. While you yourself are not responsible for changing your roommate, your voice can be a powerful motivator towards change.

Consider discussing your concerns with your roommate in a safe environment. Inquire about eating disorder resources available on your campus in advance of your conversation with your roommate. Offering support, encouragement, and resources for treatment can be some of the best and most effective ways in which you can assist a roommate who may be struggling with an eating disorder.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How have you helped a roommate or friend who may be struggling with an eating disorder? What resources did you guide them towards so they can get the help they need?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 2nd, 2015
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