Eating Disorders in College

College students are particularly susceptible to eating disorders, which can cause severe physical and mental health problems. Eating disorders can stem from many underlying emotional or psychiatric issues, and are not always rooted in a desire to lose weight. The rates for both men and women suffering are rising.

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How Do Eating Disorders Develop?

Eating disorders pose a serious problem to millions of college students nationwide. Although young women make up the majority of people suffering from an eating disorder, the number of men living with this problem is growing. Eating disorders can stem from many underlying emotional or psychiatric issues, and are not always rooted in a desire to lose weight.

College students are especially vulnerable to developing dangerous eating habits, as major life changes can trigger a disorder. College students are also subjected to peer pressures that may encourage eating disorders. If you or someone you care about is struggling with an eating disorder, we can help you.

Health Problems from Eating Disorders

Eating disorders may be spurred by a number of factors, such as pressure to lose weight or a desire to be in control. Those with eating disorders are more likely to present signs of other psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression. Substance abuse rates are higher among people with eating disorders, as drugs may even be used to aid in extreme weight loss efforts. Learn about diet pills and their impact on people with an eating disorder.

Tragically, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Without proper nutrition, people with an eating disorder face bodily deterioration and damage to major organs.

The suicide rate among people struggling with an eating disorder is 50 times higher than that of the general population.

Specific health complications caused by an eating disorder may include:

  • Bone loss
  • Infertility
  • Dangerous heart rhythm
  • Reduction in size of heart muscles
  • Nerve damage
  • Seizures
  • Numbness
  • Multi-organ failure

Types of Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a dangerous condition in which a person’s emotions, attitudes and behaviors place an unhealthy focus on food and/or weight. The three most common eating disorders are:

Anorexia Nervosa

People struggling with anorexia eat far less food than their bodies need, contributing to a dangerously low weight. Anorexia includes an intense fear of gaining weight and self-esteem that is unhealthily tied to body image.

Binge Eating Disorder

Marked by frequent experiences of overeating while feeling out of control, binge eating does not include actions to prevent weight gain. People struggling with a binge eating disorder are often ashamed of their bodies and binge eating actions, causing them to avoid situations of eating in public.[/list-desc] |

Bulimia Nervosa

People struggling with bulimia will find themselves in frequent episodes of binge eating (during which they feel like they are not in control), followed by weight management techniques such as forcing themselves to vomit. Bulimics, like anorexics, draw their self-esteem largely from their body image.

Why College Students Don’t Seek Treatment

Although eating disorders have severe consequences, there are many college students who do not seek treatment for their condition. A survey of college counselors suggested the main reasons students do not seek treatment for their eating disorder is that they:

  • Do not realize that they have an eating disorder
  • Are not aware of treatment options
  • Feel too embarrassed to seek treatment
  • Do not have treatment options available to them
  • Worry about the anonymity of their treatment

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Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

Many people mistakenly believe that only young women are affected by an eating disorder. In reality, anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of gender, age or social status.

Some of the signs of an eating disorder include:

  • Significant and sudden weight changes
  • Talking about being overweight despite being a normal weight or underweight
  • Avoiding situations that involve eating
  • Frequently overeating, even when not hungry or to the point of discomfort
  • Forced vomiting after excessive eating
  • Abuse of diet pills or stimulants to lose weight
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Get Help for an Eating Disorder

The earlier an eating disorder is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be successfully treated. It is important to recognize the signs of a disorder in yourself or someone you care about as soon as possible. If you think you know someone with an eating disorder, talk to our providers to get help.

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