Stress of College and Eating Disorders

By August 28, 2012

It’s been about three and a half years now and I still am struggling with a type of eating disorder. I have figured out that the stress from life and college is affecting my disorder and the healing process. Do you have any suggestions for young college women who suffer from such disorders? I am also not sure if it’s the atmosphere and the people I am surrounded by, but things are much worse here (college) vs. home. – j.

Dear j:

Good work on your part to persist for three and a half years. I want you to consider two things: (1) the healing process is not measured in days, months, and/or years. Do not be disheartened or dismayed with the idea that when stressed or experiencing life changes you recognize the eating disorder returning. (2) We, as journeymen in life, never get above being triggered.  It is completely possible that events and/or stressors will trigger you to return to coping mechanisms that you “thought” you had neatly put away.

College is a sequence of adjustments both social and academic – a new environment, a different and diverse peer group, performance pressures with regard to social groups and grades… These “adjustments” may be a trigger for a young woman to feel a need to control or stabilize what feels so out-of-control or anxiety provoking. Whether restricting or overindulging with food, alcohol, and/or exercise, many young women fall into the false belief that there is something external they can do to organize their internal world and feel “safe”.

I do not know exactly why you perceive “home” as less stressful.  The familiarity of home and the ritualization of the life you established there over the years could make you believe it is less stressful. However, it is not the real world to stay home. You can venture out, you can handle living and being triggered and you will find a level of comfort and a new “home.” College is the perfect opportunity for you to practice living in the midst of adjustments, change, and challenges. That is the real world for many people your age.

I would strongly encourage you to seek consulting with a professional for at least once a month “check in” appointments in order to have someone challenge your thinking. My sense is you feel alone with your thoughts, fears, and concerns and have not found a trusting social group.  A trusted professional can help you understand the external triggers that feed self doubt and the need to take control and teach you how to become an internally centered individual.

Good luck. You are strong. Keep on the journey!