Whether you just received a diagnosis, began recovery or already completed an eating disorder treatment program, managing an eating disorder can be challenging. When transitioning to college life, it’s especially important to maintain your path toward recovery.
Battling an eating disorder in college
If you’re about to transition to college, but are concerned about its effect on an eating disorder diagnosis, know you’re not alone. Thirty million Americans deal with some form of an eating disorder, mostly commonly during the teen and young adult years. While every person’s experience with an eating disorder, such as symptoms and causes, are different, they tend to be diagnosed with one of the five most common eating disorders.
- Anorexia Nervosa;
- Binge-Eating Disorder;
- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder;
- Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder.
No matter which diagnosis you may have received, or where in the recovery journey you find yourself, transitioning to college while balancing eating disorder treatment can be challenging. Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to make sure your time as a college student is peaceful and enjoyable.
Establish support before you arrive
Whether you’ve finished a treatment program or you’re in therapy, you’ll need to set up additional support at your school. Most colleges offer mental health professionals on campus you can connect with, or you can get a referral from your physician for a local eating disorder specialized therapist. Also consider looking into an on-campus support group you could plug into.
If you’re unsure where to start, talk with your therapist. See if they can offer suggestions of where to look for support groups in the area or how to build one around you on campus by finding like-minded friends.
Understand the college transition can be tough
Finding friends, adjusting to college classes and navigating campus and dorm life proves overwhelming for many students. The pressures of adapting to college, on top of dealing with an eating disorder, can make things even more challenging. However, you don’t need to handle this transition alone.
Be it peers, professors, academic advisors or counselors, it’s likely your college is teeming with support. Whether they’re there to help you boost grades, craft study habits or help you avoid eating disorder triggers, tapping into these assets can significantly smooth out your transition.
Be aware of your triggers
As unfortunate as it may be, you’re likely to encounter eating disorder triggers throughout your years as a college student. Whatever triggering situations you encounter, it’s good to have a game plan, like:
- Knowing your personal triggers;
- Knowing where you might encounter them and avoiding those people/places when possible;
- Knowing what you’re going to do when you do encounter triggers;
- Knowing how you’re going to come back if you succumb to triggers.
During recovery, it’s important to remain gentle with yourself, especially during a transition as big and different as college. Keep in touch with your therapist, remember your game plan and give yourself grace as you take it day by day.
Be aware of other eating disorder risk factors
Unfortunately, individuals battling an eating disorders are at higher risk for co-occurring disorders like alcoholism and substance abuse, depression or anxiety. To combat this risk, you can take certain steps.
- Consider skipping parties and taking part in alcohol and drug-free activities;
- Get involved in clubs or groups with like-minded peers;
- Prioritize time for self-care;
- Make sure you inform your counselor of any new symptoms, negative thoughts or anything different you experience once you get to college.
The greater awareness you have of what can negatively impact an eating disorder, the better you will be at making healthy choices for yourself as a college student.
Recognize cultural “norms” aren’t normal
Some stereotypes about college aren’t true, but other stereotypes are accurate. Binge drinking, sexual promiscuity and excessive partying tend to be running themes on college campuses nowadays, resulting in many problems for many young adults. Give yourself the freedom now to say no.
Before anyone else, it’s important to make sure your needs are met. And if attending parties isn’t going to meet your needs, decline the invite. Seek out like-minded people motivated towards living healthily and surround yourself with their company. Your mental and physical health will thank you.
Limit triggering social media exposure
Everyone will be posting their new friends, new campuses and new sororities and fraternities those first few weeks of school, so it might be a good call to limit your time spent on social media. It’s easy enough to compare yourself to others on a daily basis, and it’s even easier to do so during a vulnerable time like the high-school-to-college transition. Do yourself a favor and stay present in the moment, with your phone in your pocket.
Seek help if you need it
Transitioning to college can be challenging for anyone, especially when overcoming an eating disorder. With the right support team and a plan in place for your transition, you can set yourself up for success in order to enjoy all the thrilling opportunities in college.
If you find yourself needing additional support, Seeds of Hope is here for you. Call Seeds of Hope today at 610-644-6464.