College life is busy. Balancing academics with social events, sports, hobbies, and student jobs is a lot. Even though it’s fun (especially in a fun city like Dallas!), juggling all these responsibilities can make it difficult to integrate eating disorder treatment into their schedule.
It’s not impossible and it’s actually really important. Here’s some tips on how to do college and eating disorder treatment.
Eating Disorders in College Students
Did you know that college students are more likely to develop eating disorders compared to other groups? Eating disorders tend to develop between ages 18 to 21  and other research has shown that female college students are more likely to struggle with disordered eating .
While there’s a wide range of disordered eating behaviors, it’s important to know that all of them can have a negative impact on someone’s mental and physical health and should be taken seriously.
You might be wondering why college students are more likely to develop an eating disorder compared to others. It’s important to remember that there isn’t just one reason that someone develops an eating disorders—it’s often a complex mix of things.
For college students, there’s a few factors that are unique and can contribute to someone developing an eating disorder. These are:
- Starting college is a major transition. Think about it: not only is school way different than it’s ever been before, but for most people they have a completely different social group and may be living away from home.
- Increased pressure for academic achievement
- Less supervision from family members, who may have noticed disordered eating behaviors or unresolved mental health symptoms, if they had been around. This results in less self-accountability and support
- Intense focus on physical appearance and performance for college athletes
- Pressure to have romantic relationships, which can make feeling attractive more important
- Weight stigma in college students, such as the “Freshman 15”
All these factors make the perfect breeding ground for an eating disorder, especially for students who are preoccupied with their weight and body shape or for those who have unresolved mental health issues.
If you or a loved one is dealing with an eating disorder, please know that it’s possible to integrate treatment into your college life.
How Do I Fit Eating Disorder Treatment into My College Life?
There’s a few ways to go about getting treatment while being a college student. Here’s some tips:
Get Connected with the Counseling or Wellness Center on Campus
Some Texas colleges like Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University have counseling centers on campus. Get in touch with them to see what resources they have available. If they don’t have an eating disorder specialist available, they may be able to assist you in finding another local provider.
Campus counseling or wellness centers may also offer services like group counseling or workshops. These services might be about managing anxiety, time management, body image, or meditation. Even if the group isn’t directly focused on eating disorder recovery, learning coping skills and developing a support system is an excellent thing to add to individual therapy with an eating disorder professional.
Find a Local Eating Disorder Specialist or Treatment Center
A lot of students are worried that they won’t be able to keep up with their academic and social responsibilities if they get treatment. It’s super important to have perspective when making a decision to prioritize your health versus school.
Eating disorders are one of the most fatal mental illnesses around . This is because of the medical complications that can come as a result of disordered behaviors. Depending on how severe someone’s disorder is, they may need hospitalization or residential treatment.
If this is the case, it’s super important to get this care. There’s a reason specialists recommend this level-of-care—because it’s necessary for your health and safety. Remember that this is temporary and is an investment in your long-term plans and goals.
That being said, not everyone needs that level-of-care. There are other treatment options, such as outpatient and intensive day programs. Some of these programs may even have a virtual option, which can be more convenient for college students. It’s important to get an assessment done with a professional who specializes in eating disorders so you can an accurate treatment recommendation.
Talk with Your Academic Advisor
Your academic advisor can help you figure out how to organize your classes with your treatment schedule. This support can make it more manageable to balance treatment with school. An advisor may also be able to provide you with education about what accommodations may be available to you while you’re in the recovery process.
Consider this blog post a permission slip to do whatever you need to do to get treatment for your eating disorder. Nothing is more important than your health. It’s okay to invest in yourself. Self-care is the most productive thing you can do.
Resources: National Eating Disorders Association. (2013, February). Eating Disorders on the College Campus. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/CollegeSurvey/CollegiateSurveyProject.pdf  Yang, J. & Sun Han, K. (2020). A rational emotive behavior therapy intervention for binge eating behavior management among female students: A quasi-experimental study. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(65), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-020-00347-8  National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d). Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders
About Our Sponsor:
At Eating Disorder Solutions, compassion is at the root of everything we do. We understand that eating disorders are complex, deeply rooted mental health and medical conditions which require personalized treatment for a successful recovery. By integrating behavioral health modalities and clinical interventions, we endeavor to address disordered eating at its source.
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 23, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on August 23, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC