Dear Harlan: I’ve been battling anorexia for four years, and college life has been one of the hardest moments of recovery. It has triggered the long hidden urges of self-harm and dieting that I haven’t experienced this hard for a while. In high school I was able to get so much support because my friends knew about my illness, but now I have no one to ask for support other than the therapist. I’m not sure if I should openly tell my friends or if it will lead to bullying or a loss of friends. I still don’t know if these friends are the right group yet either. My roommate doesn’t even know. Would you recommend telling my story, or should I keep it a secret?
Dear Battling: There are so many people on campus who are dealing with this same issue. According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the prevalence of eating disorders doubled over the study period from 3.5% for the 2000-2006 period to 7.8% for the 2013-2018 period. This includes people experiencing anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. You’re not alone. Eating disorders can be managed, but change can be a major trigger. College is a social, emotional, physical, financial and academic change. The most important thing you can do is establish a support system on campus. Start with safe people. This includes support groups and one-on-one counseling to help you manage this constant change. Once you have a foundation in place, it will be easier to decide what to share, when to share it and who to share it with. But you want to make sure you have a solid support system in place to manage any unexpected reactions. I can’t imagine someone bullying you or judging you, but start with the people you know are safe and go from there. Thanks for sharing.