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Eating Disorders: Tips for College Students

Eating disorders are complex conditions that are caused by a combination of biological, emotional, interpersonal and social factors. They are not due to a failure of will or behavior. They are very real, treatable medical illnesses.

Although eating disorders are more common in women, they also occur in men. As many as 10% of women and 1% of men suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders often begin during high school or college. They can interfere with self-esteem, social interactions and performance at school or work. People who suffer from eating disorders can experience a wide range of physical health complications, including serious heart problems and kidney failure which can lead to death.

Eating disorders often co-exist with other psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. People with eating disorders need a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional with specific training and expertise in this area.

The major eating disorders include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for a person’s age and height.
  • Intense and unrealistic fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though a person is underweight.
  • Disturbance in the way one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-esteem, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
  • Infrequent or absent menstrual periods in women who have reached puberty.

Symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating, characterized by eating an excessive amount of food within a discreet period of time, and by a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode.
  • Recurrent, inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, enemas, diuretics, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.

Binge Eating Disorder (also known as compulsive overeating)

Characterized by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge. People who overeat compulsively may struggle with anxiety, depression, and loneliness, which can contribute to unhealthy episodes of binge eating. Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity.

If you or someone you know if struggling with an eating disorder, please contact us to speak to a counselor or other professional.

Online Resources

  • Something-fishy.org - This website is dedicated to raising awareness and providing support to people with eating disorders and their loved ones.
  • Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness - Learn about eating disorders and the positive effects of a healthy body image.
  • Mirror-Mirror - Additional information on eating disorders, myths/facts, and resources.