How to Approach a Roommate Who May Have a Food Addiction

Roomates discussing residential treatment

Contributor: Libby Lyons, MSW, LCSW, CEDS writer for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope.

What do you do if you feel that your roommate may have a food addiction? First you want to keep an open mind about your roommate. They may be struggling with an eating disorder, and it is important for you to talk with them privately before making a decision to move out or ask them to move. You want to set up a time with them where you will not be rushed and without interruptions.

You want to clarify your role as the roommate and if you do not have a close relationship with your roommate, then consider involving a close peer, friend, or family who does have an investment with your roommate to talk with them. If you are in college, you may want to involve the resident advisor to be able to provide resources and mediate the conversation.

The Approach

Roommates speaking while on a walk.When talking with your roommate, try to respond with empathy, nonjudgmental responses, and listen to what they are saying to you. When talking with your roommate (whether alone or in a small group), use “I” statements and let them know that you care and are concerned about their well-being. You also want to remain supportive of your roommate and communicate care, concern and a desire to talk about what is occurring.

It is not your responsibility to diagnose or provide therapy. When talking with your roommate you want to emphasize optimal health and the use of getting an assessment at the Student Health center or community mental health outpatient facility. If you are not involving others in the initial conversation it can be helpful to a few recommendations of facilities for your roommate and even offering to go with them to the initial appointment.

Setting Boundaries in Your Approach

Roommates speaking with each other.You want to be able to reflect your concern to your roommate. Try not to get caught up in a battle of ‘wills’ or negative or irrational thinking with your roommate. If this occurs, repeat what you have noticed, why you are concerned, and that the behavior needs to change and help is available.

If your roommate becomes too upset for the conversation to continue, at this point you can involve the RA (on University level) or friends/family, if necessary. Communicate to your friend that you are open and willing to discuss their concerns again in the future.

A food addiction can be a serious concern and a potential eating disorder. It is important as a roommate to express your concerns for their behavior changes, optimal mental and physical health, and for your roommate to seek treatment services.

Community Discussion – share your thoughts here!

What types of mental health support do you have in your community or college?

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons, MSW, LCSW, CEDS is a specialist in the eating disorder field. Libby has been treating eating disorders for 10 years within the St. Louis area, and enjoys working with individuals of all ages.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 24, 2016
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