Going off to college is a milestone in any child's life. Finally away from their parents' nest, college students are plunged into a new community where they are allowed to grow into adults, form personal beliefs and identities, and experience life on their own terms. However, the pressures of college are well-known. Attending school hundreds of miles from home, while a dream, can become a stark reality. Getting good grades, balancing social and work life, and making new friends can all place stress on students who may be missing their normal support structure.
All the academic and societal pressures may end up leading a young person to develop an eating disorder to cope with new hardships or experiences they're learning they'll have to deal with on their own. Now that most colleges have taken a winter break and many students have returned home to recharge their batteries, it's as good a time as ever to be watchful for certain signs that might indicate your child could have an eating disorder.
Noticeably extreme weight gain or loss
When students decide what they get to eat every day (and don't have a parent or other preparing a healthy meal most nights), it's sometimes impossible to avoid the dreaded "Freshman 15." However, while such weight gain may not be overly concerning, any extreme fluctuations you see in your child's weight may be more problematic. If your child has lost or put on large amounts of weight, it may be a sign that an eating disorder has taken hold.
Not enjoying the same food as before they left
Consider if your kid's favorite meal was chicken parmesan before they left, and as a treat, you made it the first night they're back on winter break. If they pick around at their plate or are otherwise not interested in eating what was once their favorite food, it may be a sign that an eating disorder has affected their appetite and mood. Not being interested in things that they once enjoyed is a red flag for many physical and psychological complications.
Retreating from family situations
A big part of being home for the holidays is being with family. However, if your once-social child withdraws to their room when family or company is over, it could be a worrying indication that an eating disorder has forced negative changes in their attitude, behavior and habits. If they look uncomfortable at the dinner table or don't show the same holiday joy when family comes over, an eating disorder could be to blame.
Addressing a potential eating disorder is a sensitive issue. If you suspect that your child perhaps developed one due to the stress of living college life on their own, it may help to reach out for professional help. Contact Fairwinds Treatment Centers today to learn more about our locations and services.