School’s Out for the Summer: Maintaining Eating Disorder Recovery

Woman sitting in grass

Contributor: Dr. Monica Roberts, Ed. D, LCPC of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Many college students are wrapping up their final exams, packing up their dorm rooms and apartments, and saying goodbye to their campus. Whether leaving school permanently or just for summer break, transitioning away from college can be a complex time for many students.  The transition to college is often expected to be a time of overwhelming change, but what about when it comes time to leave the college life? For many students, particularly those who are struggling with an eating disorder, going home for the summer or leaving the campus way of life entirely can bring about unexpected changes.

The End of a Chapter

Typically, the end of a school year often brings a sense of relief. Much of the pressure that college students face academically comes to a close once the last tests are taken and final projects are turned in. However, for many college students, the relief of academic pressure often creates a vacuum for other types of stressors, including moving, financial issues, dealing with a shift in support systems, social anxieties, and more.

For many college students, returning “home” can also be a triggering situation if home life conditions may not be conducive to positively supporting eating disorder recovery. For students who may have strained relationships with parents or other family members, the thought of returning home for any given length of time can be difficult to cope with.

Woman considering eating disorder recoveryOver the course of an academic year, many college students develop a structured sense to their college life, learning to balance classes, work, sports, and extracurricular activities.  Many students begin to feel a sense of belonging with a core group of people and friends and often develop a new identity, autonomy and independence as they learn to live on their own, apart from their families.

This can also be difficult for parents and family members to adapt to when these students return home after the school year, sometimes creating friction or areas of discourse.

Facing Financial Challenges After College

College graduates today are also facing unprecedented challenges, in terms of finding employment and dealing with surmounting student loan debt. According to a survey completed by Pew Research Center, the percentage of graduates who are living at home is the highest since the 1940s, climbing over 30 percent [1]. Many college graduates are navigating higher living expenses and housing costs along with a changing labor market that has made employment, even with an advanced degree, difficult to come by.

According to data from the Institute for College Access and Success, seven in ten college students will graduate with student loan debt, with Americans collectively owing over $1.4 trillion in student loans, spread out approximately over 44 million borrowers [2]. College graduates may feel overwhelmed by the need to begin paying off on student loans while struggling to find substantial employment, particularly in their area of study.

These stressors are in combination with other social and relational factors, such as having a changing support system and saying goodbye to friends who have become like family.

Supporting Your Eating Disorder Recovery

Understanding these potential stressors for college students who are transitioning away from the college life and/or graduating is especially important for individuals who may be in eating disorder recovery.

Relapses are often triggered by experiences that create emotional, mental, physical, and/or psychological changes and stressors. While relapses cannot necessarily be prevented and are part of the recovery process itself, being aware of potential triggers that may arise in life transitions can help a student prepare with greater support.

Woman in grassIf you are a college student embarking on upcoming life transitions, be sure to utilize the full continuum of care offered for those in eating disorder recovery. Having the support of a treatment team and a strong network of professionals to lean on can make all the difference when going through seasons of change in life [3].

Even if you have been able to maintain recovery for a significant length of time, consider the option of extra support as you transition back home from college or to being on your own outside of the college circle. This may involve finding an outpatient provider or team, a support group or treatment program to help you navigate the changes you may be experiencing. Asking for help is not weakness, but a display of strength and courage as you continue to prioritize your recovery through all of life’s changes.

Community Discussion – Share Your Voice!

How have you coped with transitioning to summer break in a way that promotes your eating disorder recovery?  Connect with others to discuss further on Eating Disorder Hope’s online forum today!

Monica RobertsAbout the Author: Dr. Monica Roberts, Ed. D, LCPC of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, as a Clinical Lead and Family Therapist, Dr. Roberts’ role is to foster a positive, supportive and efficiently run environment and to support the clinical team in their work.

Dr. Roberts began at Timberline Knolls as a Family Therapist in October of 2013 in a role that allowed her to facilitate family/marital therapy sessions with residents and their families, significant others, loved ones, and/or support systems. Dr. Roberts was promoted to Clinical Lead of Willow lodge in May of 2015. Under the direction of the Clinical Director, Dr. Roberts supervises, provides guidance, leadership, and support for a team of therapists and Behavioral Health Specialists. She works in conjunction with the Milieu Manager to create a safe, supportive, positive environment for one and all.

Prior to joining Timberline Knolls, Dr. Roberts was a Juvenile Justice Counselor at SGA Youth and Family Services in Chicago and a School Therapist at Camelot Schools in Des Plaines, IL.  She then worked as a private practice psychotherapist at Counseling Connections and South Campus Therapeutic Day School in Libertyville, IL and Palatine, IL. She is currently an Adjunct Professor at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL, teaching Psychology classes.

Dr. Roberts received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music in 2002 from Roosevelt University in Chicago and a Master of Arts degree in 2005 in Community Counseling from St. Xavier University in Chicago. She then went on to earn a Doctorate of Education from National-Louis University in Skokie, IL in 2013 in Educational Psychology.


[1]: “For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds”, Pew Research Center, May 24, 2016, Accessed 30 May 2017
[2]: The Institute for College Access and Success, “College Costs in Context”, Accessed 30 May 2017
[3]: National Eating Disorder Association, “Recovery and Relapse Prevention”, Accessed 30 May 2017

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 June 9, 2017.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 8, 2016
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