Collegiate Women: Beware of the Eating Disorder!

With the onset of a new college school year, freshmen, as well as other students are being oriented (first hand), as well as renewing, the experience of college life.  For many, it is their first experience of an extended time away from home.  Opportunities that come with freedom, both good and bad, abound.  What comes to mind about the college experience?– Sex, drugs/alcohol, and social media (has replaced “rock-and-roll” as third mantra word in this grouping).

There are challenges as to time management with regard to social and academic life.

Wait…the entire first paragraph…I’m waiting to hear the eating disorder part

As college girls (primarily) look around, there are comparisons when it comes to fashion, style, body image, and other measures of identity.  There is a dichotomy of how one sets themselves apart, as well as, how one fits in.  For freshman, we have heard about the “freshman 15,” representing the weight gain of girls after leaving home, and left to make food choices, as they are faced with more stress, and less support system.  Seeds are planted, here, for eating disorder behavior.

Mirror, mirror

As the first semester passes, there are visits home, comments from peers, clothes that seemed to have shrunk, as well as….the mirror.  At this point, the earlier seeds of the eating disorder have started to germinate.  A brother’s comment, “wow, have you been majoring in Dining Hall 101?”  brings to attention and focus, body image.  Now what?

With the onset of second semester, there is post-holiday dieting from all the goodies around Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s parties and gatherings.  That brother’s comment sticks a little bit too. Then, before you know it, Spring Break, along with the dreaded trying on of swimsuits (and mirrors) is at hand.  REALLY have to get serious, now, about losing weight.

Serious weight loss, can lead to serious eating disorder

With photoshop pictures of models and celebrities as inspiration, hitting the gym at the student center, and skipping meals/snacks (except for occasional salads) starts to become the pattern.  Maybe a friend suggests a diuretic, and laxative that has helped her.  A little bit more time in the gym, still, less eating, and, perhaps, even purging after a meal out on a date, has now entered the picture.

The comments, now, are about weight loss, and “how good you look,” and this feels good.  The eating disorder is now growing.

Putting on the brakes

For those of you wanting to read more, of where this story goes, and how it ends, we pause for some numbers:

  • Almost half of the students in a 2010 survey were not even aware they had an eating disorder…the numbers, predictably, would be higher, in 2014.
  • Eighty-two percent (82%) were unwilling to seek treatment.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder
  • Suicide rate for people with eating disorders is 50 times greater than that of the general population

Where this story goes, depends on, who’s reading it, and what they will choose to do.  If this scenario sounds too familiar:

  • Utilize your school’s health and counseling center resources
  • Learn more through information online  ie. www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, http://www.anad.org/ 
  • Don’t wait, contact a help center, knowledgeable about eating disorders and develop a plan appropriate for your situation.

Author: David Wiley, MS, LPC for Miller Counseling Services, PC

Mr. David Wiley, MS, LPC

Mr. David Wiley, MS, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Miller Counseling Services.  He has practiced in a variety of behavioral health settings in the Triangle area of North Carolina since 1981, including innovative approaches to substance abuse and chronic pain management, crisis intervention, as well as working with relationship issues with couples and families. Areas of interest, and expertise include: mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, substance abuse education/screening/outpatient follow-up, ADD/ADHD, relationship/premarital/marital counseling along with co-therapy, stress/pain management including biofeedback modality, life transition issues especially with college students as well as older adults, adolescent counseling.

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