For many of us, college conjures images of walking on the quad, studying over coffee, and exciting social events. We look back at this time fondly, not remembering the emotional confusion that occurred in those formative years. Questions like “What am I doing with my life?” “Who do I want to be?” “Does anyone like me?” “Where do I go for eating disorder treatment???”
Most of these questions color the college experience and can be particularly challenging for those struggling with life in general. But, how do these questions affect someone recovering from an eating disorder and in the midst of treatment?
Here are 5 tips for seeking eating disorder treatment while in college:
Reach Out for Eating Disorder Treatment
Just as an individual with a dietary restriction might reach out to the dining hall, you have the right to reach out to the mental health office at your college to ask for support.
Many college students, 8% to 17%, report struggling with an eating disorder .
As a result, many college campuses provide mental health services and may even have specific mental health professionals that specialize in eating disorders.
Reach out to your academic advisor or school counselor to learn what resources are available to you.
If your college doesn’t have the resources and support you need, search for local dietitians, therapists, eating disorder therapists, or primary care doctors off campus.
Don’t adjust what you feel you need to fit the services your college provides. Instead, find the services and support that fit you.
Know Your Limits
College is a time that can go from “no work” to “swamped” very quickly.
We can’t help what assignments your professors will assign, but you can adjust your schedule in a way that is appropriate for you.
If you need to take 4 classes instead of 5, there is no shame in that, especially if you need to prioritize that time to engage in treatment.
Negative emotions are a huge trigger for disordered eating behaviors, and stress is absolutely one of these.
Reduce the potential of feeling like you’re in over your head.
Avoid asking yourself what course load everyone else has or to what clubs everyone is going. Instead, remain focused on what you can handle while working toward and maintaining recovery.
Advocate for Yourself While in Eating Disorder Treatment
As you search for the treatment option that is right for you, it is important that you work diligently to advocate for yourself. Keep your support system and treatment team in the loop by being open and honest about your experiences and needs.
It is impossible for even the most seasoned of eating disorder clinicians to know what you are thinking or feeling. After all, they are not mind readers. So, don’t be afraid to speak up boldly as you learn how to incorporate treatment into your college life and routines.
Additionally, don’t hesitate to talk to your professors. They may seem intimidating, but many of them are absolutely open to adjusting due-dates or course requirements to suit your mental health needs.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
This is true whether you’re struggling with an eating disorder or not. It isn’t only your treatment team that needs to be 100% there for you and your recovery.
College can be a time of immense social pressure and, sometimes, we get caught up in that and behave in ways we normally wouldn’t.
Surround yourself with people that don’t make you feel that pressure. Those that allow you to be your authentic self and that not only let your unique and irreplaceable light shine but amplify it.
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.
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 October 10, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on October 10, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC