Doing It Right: How the Texas Tech Collegiate Recovery Community
Are eating disorders addictions? No one knows for sure. But eating disorders and addictions have a lot of similarities and often affect the same person, either at the same time or in different stages. Reports from eating disorder treatment facilities suggest that up to half of all individuals in recovery from eating disorders also have a substance use disorder. Some individuals develop an addiction to stimulants or diet pills by way of an unhealthy desire to manage weight or control appetite. Others experience dysfunctional overeating or undereating as an inadvertent replacement behavior for drug or alcohol use.
Eating disorders often start in the preteen or teenage years and, when addressed early on, can be success-fully treated. Therefore, some students enter college already having participated in eating disorder treatment. A portion of these students remain in remission, while others experience flare-ups in symptoms during stressful periods. Other students, who have struggled with unrecognized or low-grade eating disorders throughout high school, are correctly diagnosed and treated for the first time in college, and some others develop eating disorders for the first time once at school.
Eating disorder support services on campus can be greatly beneficial to students with and without a co-occurring addiction, whether a student’s eating disorder or other addiction starts, flares up, or remains in remission during his or her college years.
The Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, was one of the first to identify a need for services that addressed eating disorders among its student population.
Although the CRC has always welcomed students in recovery from eating disorders, specific eating disorder programming is a more recent addition. A generous donation in 2010, specific to eating disorder teaching, research, and support, funded additional CRC staff positions.
Once eating disorder programming was available, demand quickly grew. A dietitian position was added to provide nutrition counseling for students. The original 10 hours per week was expanded to a full-time job, now held by eating disorder specialist dietitian Emmy Lu Trammell.
The eating disorder support services offered by the CRC are publicized through Tech’s Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities website, and also in the “Parent Letter” found there. Many students then call the CRC to get more information and ask questions specific to their own eating disorder recovery. But most students hear about the eating disorder support at the CRC through word of mouth, including program alumni, sponsors, and referrals from therapists or treatment facilities.
Trammell says most students who participate in the eating disorder programs of the CRC have both an addiction and an eating disorder diagnosis. Those who are already aware of their eating issues often self-identify their desire to participate in eating disorder services while completing the initial CRC application. Others recognize that they have dysfunctional eating behaviors only after becoming involved in the CRC for a different reason.
Trammell has experienced many instances of a CRC student scheduling an appointment with her to discuss general aspects of nutrition, such as supplements, diets, or exercise, and then the conversation opens up about more serious eating issues. She feels that providing eating disorder recovery programming within the CRC has assisted students who may not have sought it out elsewhere.