Addressing Eating Disorders in Adolescent and College-Age Individuals

Handling eating disorders in young teenagers and college-going students requires a comprehensive and compassionate approach. These disorders can have serious physical and psychological consequences, so early intervention and support are crucial. 

Here are some steps to handle eating disorders in this age group:

Recognize the Signs:

  • Learn to recognize the signs of eating disorders, which may include significant weight loss, changes in eating habits, secretive behavior around food, excessive exercise, distorted body image, and emotional fluctuations.


  • Approach the individual with care and empathy. Express your concern and let them know you’re there to support them. Be non-judgmental and willing to listen.

Seek Professional Help:

  • Eating disorders often require professional treatment. Encourage the person to consult a healthcare provider, therapist, or counselor who specializes in eating disorders.

Treatment Team:

  • Eating disorder treatment typically involves a multidisciplinary team, which may include a physician, therapist, dietitian, and psychiatrist. Each plays a specific role in addressing the physical and mental aspects of the disorder.

Family Involvement:

  • Family support is vital. Involving family members in the treatment process can improve outcomes. Family therapy can help address any familial factors contributing to the disorder.

Nutritional Guidance:

  • A registered dietitian can help the individual develop a healthy relationship with food and create balanced meal plans to support recovery.


  • Various types of therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), are effective in treating eating disorders. Individual and group therapy sessions are common components of treatment.


  • In some cases, medication may be prescribed to address co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety. A psychiatrist can evaluate the need for medication.

Hospitalization or Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP):

  • In severe cases, hospitalization or IOPs may be necessary to ensure the individual’s safety and provide intensive treatment.

Support Groups:

  • Encourage participation in support groups for individuals with eating disorders. These groups can provide a sense of community and shared understanding.

Education and Awareness:

  • Help the individual and their family understand the nature of eating disorders, their physical and emotional consequences, and the process of recovery.

Positive Environment:

  • Create a supportive and non-judgmental environment at home or on campus. Avoid making negative comments about body size or dieting.

Monitor Progress:

  • Keep track of the individual’s progress and setbacks in consultation with their treatment team. Encourage them to follow the treatment plan.

Relapse Prevention:

  • Work with the treatment team on a relapse prevention plan. Understand that recovery may involve setbacks, and be prepared to provide ongoing support.

Self-Care and Coping Skills:

  • Help the individual develop healthy coping skills to manage stress and emotions in ways that do not involve disordered eating behaviors.

It’s important to approach eating disorders with patience and understanding. Recovery is often a long and challenging process, but with the right support and professional help, many individuals can regain a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. Remember that early intervention can significantly improve the chances of successful recovery.

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