College Students With Eating Disorders

Facing an eating disorder during college can be extremely challenging and concerning. Maybe your teen with a history of an eating disorder is going off to college and you want to ensure they have continued support. Or maybe you are a parent whose young adult came home for break and you observed they’d lost weight or are eating a narrower range of foods. Perhaps you’ve noticed your college student is preoccupied with the quality of food and avoids those deemed unhealthy. Learn more about warning signs to watch for in your college student.

Maybe you are a college student who has noticed increased obsessive thoughts about food or exercise. Or perhaps you are a college student who has been referred for outpatient counseling by your college counseling center. We specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. Our eating disorder specialist therapists can help college students with eating disorders and their families. Treatment for Eating Disorders in College [Image description: a drawing of a young woman carrying books and a backpack walking] Represents a possible college student seeking therapy for an eating disorder online in California or in-person in Los Angeles, CA

We provide therapy at the outpatient level of treatment. This may not be appropriate for people who are significantly below a healthy weight for their body unless they have support during most meals of the week. If a college student is significantly below a healthy weight and does not have support at meals, they may need a higher level of care such as a partial hospitalization program or residential treatment program. This is because eating enough to gain weight is so very hard when one is under-nourished, harder than you would think.

Alternatively, some parents will encourage their young adults to take a break from college and move home. For families that reside in California, we can provide Family-Based Treatment (FBT) for young adults. We will do an assessment and help you and your college student determine if we can provide the appropriate level of support.


Eating Disorders in College

College is a time of major transition and also a time when mental health problems, including eating disorders, are likely to emerge for the first time. College brings a lot of stressors including living away from parents for the first time, living with new peers, less personal space and privacy, new social pressures, a new eating environment, drugs and alcohol, and increased academic pressures. Our therapists understand these pressures and challenges and have a lot of experience supporting college students struggling with eating disorders, disordered eating, body image issues, anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. We see numerous college students in our practice.

Even a college with the best mental health resources will not have the staff to provide ongoing treatment for all of their students’ mental health needs. Most routinely refer students to providers in the community. Furthermore, they will never be able to provide the same level of accountability and oversight that a parent provides.  Accordingly, we encourage family involvement in the treatment of college students.

Approximately 11% to 17% of female college students and 4% of male college students experience an eating disorder. Even greater numbers of college students—from 20% to 67% —will experience eating disorder symptoms, but not qualify for a full diagnosis (Grammer at al., 2020). The rates of eating disorders are even higher among trans college students, who may experience disordered eating at a rate four times the rate of their cisgender classmates (Diemer et al., 2015). Furthermore, eating disorders often occur alongside other mental health disorders including depression and anxiety.

Therapy for College Students with Eating Disorders

Therapy for college students with eating disorders in California [Image description: a female and male seated in a therapy office representing a potential college student seeking therapy for an eating disorder in Los Angeles, CA]Our therapy for college students is based on either Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for adults who are motivated and able to independently work towards recovery, or Family-Based Treatment (FBT) for those who need more support around eating and “pulling” into recovery by their parents or other supports. With college students, we always try to obtain releases of information. This way we can keep parents apprised of significant changes in health. If you are reaching out on behalf of a college student, please ask them to complete one.

Licensure is by state. Most states require that therapists—even those providing online eating disorder therapy video sessions—be licensed to practice in the state where the client is at the time of the session. Accordingly, we can work with college students in our office in Los Angeles or virtually when they are physically in the state of California.

Colleges local to our eating disorder therapy office include:

  • University of Southern California (USC)
  • University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

    Eating Disorder Therapy LA Office shown on map in relation to UCLA and USC for convenient sessions for college students in Los Angeles, California
    Map of our Office with Purple star designating our office
  • Occidental College
  • Cal State LA,
  • Pepperdine
  • Loyola Marymount University (LMU).

Access Help While in College in Los Angeles and California and Beyond

Our practice accepts several insurance plans to make eating disorder therapy more affordable. We are in-network with Aetna, which is the student insurance for USC. We are also contracted with Anthem, which provides health insurance for all the University of California schools. Our therapists have worked remotely with students at UC Irvine, UC Davis, Pomona College, UCSF, UCSD, and Stanford University, among others. We also have some therapists licensed in a few other states including New York, Indiana, and South Carolina. If you live in one of these states and your young adult goes to college in California, or if you reside in California and your young adult goes to college in one of these states, we may be able to provide support in both locations.

If you are a college student in California and are looking for individual therapy, please reach out. Our eating disorder specialty therapists can help determine whether outpatient therapy is appropriate. In addition, we can help put together a full treatment team with a dietitian and a medical doctor. After a full assessment, we collaborate with you on establishing treatment goals. We can help you to break cycles of disordered eating, eat more regularly, and find peace with food. We can help address bingeing, purging, overexercise, and body image concerns. In addition, we provide treatment for anxiety and depression and concerns like perfectionism and self-esteem issues.

Our individual therapy approach is rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, which works to identify and modify problematic behaviors and thoughts. Consequently, your therapist works on an individualized treatment plan with you. Therapy often includes keeping food or mood logs, learning skills, facing scary situations instead of avoiding them, and doing homework.

Sending a Young Adult with an Eating Disorder History to College

If you are a parent of a young adult with an eating disorder who is preparing to go to college, please review our eating disorder college readiness guide. Accordingly, you will see, we encourage six months of stable recovery before sending them to college. Additionally, we encourage parents sending young adults with a history of an eating disorder to college to consider developing an eating disorder college contract.

We also encourage you to help your college student accept college weight gain as necessary and important for health.

Other Relevant Pages for Parents of College Students

Join Our College Process Group

College students with eating disorders face unique challenges. We offer a college process group where you can share your struggles with and receive support from other students in a safe online space. Learn more here.

Begin Counseling for Eating Disorders in College in California

Fortunately, help for your or your child’s eating disorder during college is only a phone call or an email away. Counseling can bring recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating. Our Los Angeles, California practice has caring online therapists who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders in college students. To start your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact Eating Disorder Therapy LA by phone, email, or contact form
  2. Speak to our practice manager. We don’t at all mind inquiries from parents on behalf of their adult children. Afterward, we will ask to be connected to your college student directly
  3. Start the eating disorder recovery journey

Illustrated image of multiple dancers of various body shapes, sizes and abilities with the text "Inclusive Recovery" underneath. Anorexia Nervosa Treatment in Los Angeles, CA and online anorexia nervosa treatment throughout the state of California including Modesto, Bakersfield, Napa, Palm Springs, and beyond! Learn more about anorexia treatment, including atypical anorexia as well, here.Other Counseling Services at Eating Disorder Therapy LA

At Eating Disorder Therapy LA, we specialize in evidence-based treatments for all eating disorders and related issues. We provide therapy for Atypical Anorexia, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Our therapists can help people with Orthorexia. We also treat problems with body image as well as anxiety and depression.


Skip to content