Finding Help for an Eating Disorder When You’re Away at College


When you head off to college, you might feel all kinds of emotions. You’re living without your family for the first time, and it’s up to you to figure out how to succeed with very little guidance.

If you’ve struggled with unhealthy dieting and exercise habits in the past, the added pressures that come with college life might turn unhealthy habits into disordered eating behaviors. But, without your parents or loved ones nearby, how do you get help for an eating disorder when you’re away at college?

Why College Students Are at a High Risk for Eating Disorders

College can be an incredibly exciting time. Suddenly, you have all this freedom to manage your own schedule and make your own choices. But, there’s also a lot of stress and pressure that comes with college. You’re now managing a whole new culture and social environment, and you’re living independently for the first time.

It’s completely OK to feel some anxiety and maybe a little fear over how to manage that. But it’s important to understand that college students can be at a high risk for developing an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder, because of all these new pressures they’re now dealing with.

Students who have always struggled with feelings of perfectionism or a need to control their daily life may find college life particularly challenging. When the higher stakes of college life don’t quite go as planned, this can cause a great deal of anxiety for some students.

And, with few healthy food options in the all-you-can-eat dining halls and those infamous microwavable mac-and-cheese bowls, managing your nutrition might seem impossible.

The extreme pressure of college life, the effects of this pressure on a student’s mental health, and constant messaging that they must live up to the cultural ideal of thinness can all contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

How to Get Help for an Eating Disorder

If you’re away at college and experiencing the symptoms of an eating disorder such as avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), orthorexia, or compulsive overeating, you’re not alone. Help is available, and the sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can start to heal from any damage you might have experienced as a result of the compulsion to engage in disordered eating.

Your campus health office may have an eating disorder support group that can provide you with resources on how to begin the recovery process, or they may be able to refer you to eating disorder treatment centers in the area.

However, it is crucial that you find a provider who specializes in care for the eating disorder you are coping with. Timberline Knolls in Lemont, Illinois, helps college students achieve lasting recovery from various eating disorders, allowing them to successfully return to campus life.

Living with an eating disorder does not need to end your college career. With proper treatment, you can manage your symptoms and recover from the eating disorder you’re struggling with, and get back to your new life at college.