Eating Disorder Help for College Students

Eating disorder help for college studentsEating disorders affect millions of people and are most often associated with teens and women. The following are three primary types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa. Characterized by an unusually extreme and unhealthy desire to be thin, a person suffering with this eating disorder will refuse to keep their body weight at a healthy level, possesses an intense fear of being fat and not have the ability to view their body image in a rational manner.
  • Bulimia nervosa. Characterized by a pattern of overindulging in food (binging) and then violently releasing the food (purging) typically through means of vomiting, taking laxatives or excessive exercise.
  • Binge eating. Characterized by overindulging in food then avoiding food for long periods of time. While there is no purging involved in this disorder, a person consistently gives their body the impression that it is starving during the periods of not eating.

It may be surprising to learn that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. In large part this is due to the physical effects such as heart disease and kidney malfunction. Further, the suicide rate for those suffering from eating disorders is also higher than for the general population.

Why Do College Students Experience Eating Disorders?

There is no one specific reason that a person experiences an eating disorder, but some contributors include the following:

  • Society’s intense focus on thinness and appearance
  • Family history of emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety
  • Need to feel in control
  • Desire to appeal to others by being perfect
  • Participation in competitive sports or artistic activities that emphasize thinness
  • Extreme stress

Typically it is a combination of these social, psychological, family, genetic and environmental factors that lead a person towards an eating disorder. The primary reasons that college students experience eating disorders are the following:

  • Lack of knowledge of proper nutrition
  • Not investing the time to create a food consumption plan that provides the necessary nutrition
  • Not evaluating cafeteria options carefully
  • Eating at unusual times of the day (late at night, the middle of the night)
  • Snacking on unhealthy options throughout the day

How Can Colleges Respond to Eating Disorders?

The incidence of college eating disorders is on the rise, particularly at stressful times of the school year such as finals. While these times may cause a spike in the number of eating disorder events, once a person starts down this path, it is difficult to stop.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) surveyed college health and counseling center staff to identify programs they offer students relating to eating disorders and body image. While many respondents indicated that they were witnessing an increase in the number of eating disorder cases, they were also at a loss as to how to respond. Many colleges feel that, due to liability, they are in a difficult position. Not having the resources to identify and address this issue in a comprehensive manner often leaves many colleges taking a hands-off approach. Many colleges are continuing to struggle with how to address eating disorders, although a first step may be as simple as increasing the awareness of eating disorders on campus.

Get Help for Eating Disorders

Having your college experience negatively impacted by an eating disorder has financial, educational and social ramifications. Call our toll-free helpline to learn about the most appropriate eating disorder treatment for you. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about eating disorders and treatment programs. Let us help.