Anxiety and Eating Difficulties at University

Eating disorders & difficulties with eating can have a huge impact on your social life. Activities you may have really enjoyed before (such as going for a meal with friends or family) are now scary and anxiety-inducing and you may feel you want to find excuses to pull out of plans and avoid these situations at all costs. 

My difficulty with eating arose as a symptom of anxiety, but I only discovered this after months of back and forth with my doctors to try and determine the cause of my twisted tight stomach, not having an appetite and struggling to eat certain types of foods, where I was taking different tablets for something that in fact was all psychological. 

Once I knew it was psychological, it was a huge turning point for me as although it felt like something I didn’t have control over, I knew that it wasn’t totally out of my hold and control because all of these negative intrusive thoughts were going on inside my head, inside my body!

Because of this, I spent much of my 1st year at university finding reasons to not go out to occasions that involved a sit-down meal, losing out on making friends and fun memories. At the worst points, I would be so anxious that I’d be physically sick and not be able to eat anything at all, or even think about eating food. At this time, I had one close friend I felt I could talk about this with, but still suffered through much of it on my own, using the internet to try and understand what I was going through and what I should do. 

What worked for me: Eating meals out and about

  • If you’re feeling particularly anxious, order something small from the restaurant (many places have smaller dishes on their menus for those with less of an appetite) so that it is easier to manage. 
  • Try to think of eating in a more positive, and less enforced way.  Food is there for you to enjoy and it doesn’t mean you have to eat everything on the plate. If you’ve only managed a small amount and you’re satisfied and happy then that is okay! Additionally, if you have some leftovers and you want to take them home with you to snack on later or finish when you’re more hungry, ask the restaurant for a takeaway box. 
  • Tell people around you, this may be friends or family or people you trust. You don’t need to explain the ins and outs of your difficulties with eating if you don’t want to, even mentioning to someone quietly that you’re struggling with the meal can really help. It is important to remember that although people around you may not understand what you’re going through, it doesn’t mean they won’t support you and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to continue fighting this on your own. 

Contributed by Anonymous

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