Eating disorders are no stranger to the collegiate population, with the transition to college being among the most stressful transitions for many individuals. For those who have other risk factors for eating disorders, the various stressors involved with the college transition can be enough to trigger the development of an eating disorder, like anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.
In a recent national survey of college students, 20 percent of participants noted that they had suspected that they suffered from an eating disorder at some point of their lives . With the prevalence of eating disorders among college students, there is growing concern for those who have traveled abroad as part of their educational journey.
Challenges Faced When Studying Abroad
College students struggling with an eating disorder may find that studying abroad triggers a new host of challenges, issues, and concerns, especially when it comes to connecting to support and treatment. Being aware of these potential challenges ahead of time can be helpful in preparing for a successful study abroad experience, for whatever length of time this might be.
If you are looking at international universities and institutions for your study, it is also important to research options for mental health care within the area you will be spending the majority of your time, whether on campus or elsewhere. Even if you don’t plan on utilizing these resources, it is critical to know what your options are, in case the need arises.
Students traveling abroad may find the sudden change in structure, decrease in social support, language barriers, food accessibility, cultural changes, and more all contributing factors to increased stressors.
If you have been struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to discuss the decision to study abroad with your treatment team to determine whether this option is appropriate for you, based on your progress in recovery. If you are already abroad and find yourself struggling with things like eating normally, regularly and consistently, or are experiencing increased urges to engage in eating disorder behaviors, it is key to seek out help as soon as possible.
Options For Recovery Support
Start by checking the wellness center on the campus where you are studying. It is also important to ensure that you have adequate health insurance coverage abroad before you leave for your trip, in the case that you may need any form of health care. While some colleges and universities offer student health insurance plans, you may need to apply for individual insurance to cover your time overseas.
If you are in need of immediate medical or psychiatric care, directly contact your health insurance provider to determine the best options are in your area. You might also research non-profit eating disorder organizations in the country or city you are in to find support groups, including 12-step groups, to help you stay connected to resources that will support your recovery efforts while studying abroad.
About the Author: Crystal is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.
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,
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 and nutrition private practice.
References:: National Eating Disorders Association. National Eating Disorders Association announces results of eating disorders poll on college campuses across the nation. [Accessed 30 May 2017];Market Wire. 2006 Sep
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.
Published on June 7, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 7, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHop