Faculty and Students Guidelines for Meeting With and Referring Students Who May Have Eating Disorders
- No matter how strong your suspicion that a student has an eating
disorder, do not make a decision without first speaking privately with
the student. If possible, select a time to talk when you will not feel
rushed. Ensure sufficient time and try to prevent interruptions.
- Roommates or friends should select the person who has the best
rapport with the student to do the talking. Unless the situation is an
emergency or otherwise very negative for many people, confrontation by a
critical group without professional guidance should be avoided.
- Throughout the conversations, communicate care, concern, and a
desire to talk about problems. Your responsibility is not diagnosis or
therapy, it is the development of a compassionate and forthright
conversation that ultimately helps a student in trouble find
understanding, support, and the proper therapeutic resources.
- If the information you receive is compelling, communicate to the student:
- Your tentative sense that he or she might have an eating disorder;
- Your conviction that the matter clearly needs to be evaluated;
- Your understanding that participation in school, sports, or other
activities will not be jeopardized unless health has been compromised to
the point where such participation is dangerous
- Avoid an argument of battle of wills. Repeat the evidence, your
concern, and if warranted your conviction that something must be done.
Terminate the conversation if it is going nowhere or if either party
becomes too upset. This impasse suggests the need for consultation from a
- Throughout the process of detection, referral, and recover, the
focus should be on the person feeling healthy and functioning
effectively, not weight, shape, or morality.
- Do not intentionally or unintentionally become the student’s
therapist, savior, or victim. Attempts to “moralize,” develop
therapeutic plans, closely monitor the person’s eating, adjust one’s
life around the eating disorder, or cover for the person are not
- Be knowledgeable about community resources to which the student can
be referred. In discussing the utility of these resources, emphasize to
the student that, since eating problems are very hard to overcome on
one’s own, past unsuccessful attempts are not indicative of lack of
effort or moral failure.
- Faculty should arrange for some type of follow-up contact with the student.