Being in college is a time of ongoing challenges, growth, change, expectations and development. Students are often growing in their own autonomy, learning more about who they are as an individual and what they are hoping to pursue in life. It is not uncommon for college students to be involved in multiple things in addition to academics, including work, extracurricular activities and more. For the college student who is also in recovery from an eating disorder, staying connected to regular and consistent treatment is necessary for staying well and maintaining progress. This takes adequate planning to set up treatment providers near campus and around a chaotic college schedule to ensure that you have regular support and care. Eating disorders are often exacerbated by stressors, and with lack of support, the college lifestyle itself can be triggering for someone in recovery. Eating disorders can also be triggered by a break in routine, which often happens when college students come home for the summer. Instead of having a structured daily schedule, summer usually consists of lots of free time, lots of family time, vacations and skimpy clothing on the beach, all of which can be triggers for an eating disorder relapse.
Returning Home Can be a Triggering Time for College Students with Eating Disorders
Summer vacation can cause a lapse in normal routines, and even though this is a much needed and anticipated time for college students, it is important to maintain treatment and support for eating disorder recovery. On the contrary, the summer can be triggering for those individuals struggling with an eating disorder spurred from pressures or dysfunctions in their family.
For most, home is a loving and safe environment. However, for some, home may be different. It could be a place where punishment was dealt out quickly, strictly and physically, or where guilt or shame may have been used to control behavior. Home might have strict rules and rigid discipline, and there might be a standard of unattainable perfection that didn’t allow for a normal, safe, carefree childhood.
For young adults that grew up in these types of environments, college is a safe haven and an escape. Conversely, summer break at home is a submersion back into a toxic environment they’ve temporarily been able to escape.
Tips to Maintain Eating Disorder Recovery During the Summer
If you are a college student in recovery and approaching your summer break, you need to plan ahead for ways to stay connected to support while on vacation. If you are planning a trip in which you will be away for an extended period of time, be sure to discuss these plans with your treatment team.
Consistency with treatment creates a solid foundation for your recovery, and it is essential to be proactive during break times. The treatment professionals that you are working with during the school year may help you create a solid plan for continuity of care through summer vacation by offering referrals for other treatment professionals, support groups and more.
1. Create a routine.
Many students, regardless of their home life, struggle to recreate a healthy routine during the flexible summer months. If you are simultaneously struggling with an eating disorder and navigating a dysfunctional family system, having a routine during the summer can be an important part of maintaining balance.
2. Find a summer support group.
There are many virtual and physical groups around the country that are designed to provide you with help, hope and advice. Support groups are a great asset to your recovery during the summer months, especially as you adjust back to life at home.
3. Seek professional help.
Sometimes situations are too complex and painful to deal with on our own or even with the help of a support group. This is why individuals and organizations dedicate themselves to helping those struggling with dysfunctional families and eating disorders.
We’re Here for You
We are here for you at Center for Discovery. We specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.
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