Addressing Back-to-School Triggers in Recovery


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It’s that time of year again: back-to-school is here and with it come all the stresses of the end of summer. No more sleeping in during the week, no more long summer days, no more carefree evenings with friends. The summer evenings have come to an end and it’s time to return to the scheduled days of the school year.

Returning to school also comes with a wide range of triggers for those in eating disorder recovery. Individuals living in active recovery have a unique set of challenges that come with going back to school. Navigating these situations can be difficult but there are things you can do to prepare yourself.

Walking through the doors on your first day of school may make you nervous but you can do it. When you’re ready for the things that come with going back to school, you can head into the year ready to go. The following situations can feel triggering for some people in eating disorder recovery but going into the year positive and prepared will make a huge difference!

Shopping for School Clothes

Shopping for school clothes is a common sign that it’s time to get back to school. Many young people get excited about picking some new outfits for the school year. It offers a chance to express individuality and show your unique flair to your classmates. When you’re in active eating disorder recovery, though, shopping for school clothes may not have the same effect.

Buying new clothes can be packed with a wide range of triggering situations. From finding outfits that fit to picking clothes that make you feel comfortable to stressing about sizes, shopping for clothes can feel overwhelming. Recognize the potential challenges that may arise before you head out to pick out school clothes. Bring a supportive friend or family member with you who can help you through the process.


Mealtimes are often a significant trigger for people in recovery from an eating disorder. Recovery is difficult because it means facing the thing that challenges you most, multiple times a day, every single day. Lunchtime at school can be a serious struggle when you’re trying to remain in recovery.

Navigating the school cafeteria can be challenging and triggering depending on where you are in your recovery. Lunch could look like packing your own or choosing to eat at school based on what is available in the cafeteria. Discuss this potential obstacle with your Registered Dietitian to ensure your plan is safe, realistic, affordable and in line with your recovery.

stick to foods that don’t trigger your E.D.

Physical Education Class

P.E. class has been a daunting experience for adolescents throughout the decades. The infamous mile run, playing dodgeball, and all the other games and activities that come with P.E. leave many feeling inadequate. Physical education class may be a triggering class to deal with if you’re in eating disorder recovery.

No matter how many students dislike it, physical education is still an important part of the curriculum. One way to handle the potential stressors of P.E. is to speak with the school administration before the year begins. You and your parents may be able to work something out that helps you maintain your recovery while still meeting the academic requirements for school.

Schoolwork Stress

After a summer of few to no responsibilities, back-to-school also means getting back to schoolwork. Piles of homework can lead to some significant stress for any student. When you’re in eating disorder recovery, though, this stress may serve as a trigger for your disorder. Stress often sends emotions spiraling and sets the E.D. cycle back in motion.

Remember that stress is not permanent and there are ways you can prepare yourself for the difficulties of schoolwork. Staying organized and sticking to a routine are two important measures to take that can keep your stress levels at bay. The more you prepare for your assignments and classes, the less stress you’ll feel throughout the year.

Social Events

Social events are a big part of going back to school. From school-hosted events to hanging out with your friends, socialization is an inescapable part of the school experience. These social events may be exciting under normal circumstances but you may feel nervous or self-conscious if you’re in eating disorder recovery.

Socializing during back-to-school could be a triggering event for those in recovery from an eating disorder. It’s important to continue with your treatment plan and keep building your self-esteem and self-confidence as you head into the school year. The more you work on your self image, the stronger you’ll feel going back to school.

Seeking Additional Help

If you find that heading back to school is triggering your eating disorder symptoms, you may need some additional help. There’s nothing wrong with seeking treatment if you slip back into some of your old behaviors. Attending treatment can set you back on the right path and send you into school on the right foot.

Selah House is a Christian eating disorder treatment facility that works with women and teen girls battling disordered eating behaviors. We focus on addressing the underlying causes of eating disorders so you can overcome your condition and engage fully with the life you deserve to live. To learn more about our programs, reach out to us to speak with an admissions specialist today!

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