When college students return home for winter break, it is an opportunity for parents to notice changes in their children, and sometimes they’re not always good changes. Those changes could include eating disorders. The real signs of an eating disorder not only lie in appearance but also mood and habits.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 25 percent of college students have eating disorders. The same percent of college women report managing weight by binging and purging, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
The problem seems to be more widespread among women, but men are not excluded. The association says 10 to 15 percent of anorexics and bulimics are male.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorder, although it may seem that many cases of anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder start in high school, the average age for the onset of these disorders is 18 to 20, just as teens enter college.
There are many factors that could contribute to the high amount students having an eating disorder in college, according to The Child Institute. There are physiological reasons such as low self esteem, feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety, anger, stress or loneliness that may cause someone to have an eating disorder. Someone could easily experience these feelings when attending a new school with new people and trying to balance a full time class load.
Social reasons, such as cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” or muscularity and place value on obtaining the “perfect body,” could also cause an eating disorder, according to The Child Institute. There could also be interpersonal reasons such as troubled relationships or friendships.
Counselors describe many signs of an eating disorder as :
- Depression or anxiety
- Obsession with his/her appearance
- Avoiding eating with people
- Counting calories
- Favoring loose, baggy clothes
- Disappearing after meals
- Avoiding social activities
Parents should most likely discuss if they find any of these observations within their child, but they should approach it very delicately. Some students may be eager to share this burden with their parents, while others can be defensive. Even the most thought out questions can prompt denial or anger.
If you believe you or someone you know has or has had an eating disorder, consider visiting the VSU Counseling Center. The services are free and confidential for all VSU students. Eating disorders affect more people than you would think and can be serious. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and family.
Story by Savannah Oliver, staff writer. Photo courtesy of Andrew Neel on Unsplash.
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