When Summer Break Reveals an Eating Disorder: How to Approach Your College Student

Man on a boat contemplating exposure-based therapy for eating disorders

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Director of Content and Social Media at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Having your college student home for summer vacation is a welcomed reprise after your loved one has been gone during the school year.

Depending on your situation, you may not be able to see your college student frequently during the school year due to distance, finances, and more.

Once your child returns after an extended period of time away from home, you may notice changes – some things positive, some perhaps that are negative, and things that may just generally be different about your loved one.

Identifying Eating Disorder Behaviors in Your College Student

If your college student has been struggling with an eating disorder, this may become apparent once they return home. In some circumstances, and depending on the severity of the eating disorder, you may observe changes in the appearance of your college student that lead you to question the stability of their eating habits while away at school. However, changes in appearance alone are not indicative of an eating disorder, including weight loss or weight gain.Boy summer skateboard

Changes in eating behaviors may reveal a problematic eating disorder, such as restrictive eating habits, eating large quantities of food in short periods of time, displaying anxiety or fear around eating, exercising food rituals when eating and more. Your loved one may also exhibit other behaviors, such as compensating for eating in the form of self-induced vomiting, extreme exercise, and more.

Connecting Your College Student to Support

If you suspect that your college student is struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to voice your concern and help your loved one connect to treatment for early intervention.

The transition to college can often be a time that triggers eating disorder behaviors, and seeking out professional assistance can help your loved one recover quickly. While this may be a difficult and uncomfortable situation for you and your family to deal with, your loving support can help your child heal and recover from an eating disorder.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What resources have you found to be helpful for college students who may be struggling with an eating disorder?


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: 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, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

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/AH and nutrition private practice.


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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 11, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com