The world doesn’t stop for taking a break from college for eating disorder treatment. This is a reality that those struggling with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder know all too well.
For those in college, classes keep going, friends keep socializing, and people keep changing.
But, the 6% of college women that struggle with anorexia or bulimia, and the 25-40% that report disordered eating and body image problems, feel frozen by a decision and that is to stay in this world and possibly worsen or to remove themselves from college for a short time to get well in treatment .
This is a difficult decision to make, and I empathize with you if you are having to make. But, hard doesn’t mean bad. Taking this time to focus on yourself and recovery, while hard, is likely the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself.
Accept Your Reality if Eating Disorder Treatment is Needed
This might seem harsh, but facing the reality of your situation is crucial to making the decision of taking a break from college.
It isn’t until we look our demons in the face that we realize how strong they have become and what we are up against. Only then can we learn what we will need to defeat them.
To make this step easier, I encourage you to go to a therapist, whether on-or-off-campus. Therapists are not just there as someone to vent to.
They are there to help you hold a mirror to yourself and to see yourself as you really are, whether you like where you are or not.
Working with a therapist can help you to determine the severity of your disordered eating symptoms and the possible necessity of treatment.
Not only that, it is comforting to know that, while you will be gone for a while, when you return, you have an ally to continue the fight with you.
Prepare for Eating Disorder Treatment
Many people consider the preparations they will need to make before they go into treatment.
I’m not only talking about discussions of what you can and can’t bring or what insurance will cover.
For someone in college, there is also the challenge of how to ensure enrollment once treatment is over.
Coordinate with your Student Advisor once you make the brave decision to take a break to go to treatment. They can help you navigate the complications of missing half or a whole semester and what this means for your overall education timeline.
There is no shame in attending college any longer than you need to, especially if this means you have taken time off to take care of yourself.
Also, consider your current living situation and what that will look like after you return. No one wants to apartment hunt while in treatment. So, talk with your roommates about what your options are.
With those immediate concerns of degree and living out of the way, emotionally prepare yourself for the challenge of stepping out for a time socially.
You will miss social engagements, you will miss your friends, that is only natural.
Valuable friends will help you to make even better memories when you return.
Memories that shine with the joy of recovery instead of being tinged by the darkness of an eating disorder.
Not only that, you may make some of your most cherished friendships while working toward recovery, as many do.
The choice of taking a break from college for eating disorder treatment is never easy. However, you can prepare for it emotionally and logistically so that you take the time you need to heal yourself.
You can rejoin your college world a happier person free from the bindings of your eating disorder.
References: Schwitzer, A. M. Choate, L. H. (2015). College women eating disorder diagnostic profile and dsm-5. Journal of American College Health, 63:1, 73-78.
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 July 25, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 25, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC