Eating disorders: An epidemic among college students

In respect for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb. 26 – March 4), here are some quick facts to know about recognizing and dealing with a disorder.

The most common eating disorder among college students in the U.S. is binge-eating, and other common ones include bulimia and anorexia nervosa.

“Fifteen percent of women 17 to 24 have eating disorders,” according to The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association. “Twenty percent of college students said they have or previously had an eating disorder(s), and 91 percent of female college students have attempted to control their weight through dieting.”

These disorders seem to be most prevalent in college students but are common among people of all ages as well, according to MEDA.

As many as 20 million women and 10 million men will at some point suffer from an eating disorder, according to nationaleatingdisorders.org.

Sometimes people with eating disorders will hide their unhealthy behaviors, according to webmd.com. This can make it difficult to recognize the signs of an eating disorder, especially early on.

Binge-eating is common among college students because it is a way to cope with stress, according to The National Center for Health Research.

There is a difference between binge-eating and bulimia. Binge-eating is overindulging and overeating in a short period of time. Those who suffer from bulimia binge-eat and then purge, which is forced vomiting.

Bulimia is sometimes hard to recognize because bulimics often maintain a normal body weight, according to waldencenter.org.

Physical Symptoms of Bulimia may include:

  • Swollen glands
  • Discolored teeth- staining or deterioration of tooth enamel
  • Calluses on the hands caused by self-inducing vomiting
  • Broken blood vessels around the eyes
  • Stomach pain and weakness or fatigue
  • Woman with bulimia often stop menstruating, according to waldencenter.org.

Another common eating disorder among college students is anorexia nervosa.

“Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss,” according to nationaleatingdisorders.com, “or difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image.”

Some other signs of anorexia nervosa besides extreme weight loss and thin appearance include impulsively exercising and/or purging by either vomit or laxative, according to the national association.

Anorexia stems from a distorted body image in the mind.

Physical Symptoms of Anorexia may include:

  • Fatigue/Insomnia/Dizziness or fainting
  • Bluish discoloration of the fingers
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out/Soft, downy hair covering the body
  • Dry or yellowish skin
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Swelling of arms or legs
  • And absence of menstruation in women, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia have all the same health consequences that are associated with obesity or heart disease like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and chronic irregular bowel movements, according to the national association.

There are many different types of eating disorders besides the ones listed above. Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races and ethnicities.

If you believe yourself or a roommate is suffering from an eating disorder get the help you deserve.

The eating disorder behaviors you’ve learned can be unlearned if you’re motivated and willing to change, according to helpguide.org.

However, completely overcoming the disorder takes more than giving up the unhealthy behaviors, according to helpguide.org. “It’s also about rediscovering who you are beyond your eating habits, weight and body image.”

What you can do to help yourself:

  • Admit you have a problem
  • Reach out for support
  • Assemble a treatment team
  • Learn to cope with uncomfortable feelings
  • Learn to love and accept yourself as you are
  • Take steps to prevent relapse
  • Learn more about your disorder by reading related articles, according to helpguide.org.

Visit the Student Health Center on campus. The counseling center can be found on the second floor, according to byui.edu/health-center.


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