Dealing With Eating Disorders In College Students
In early adulthood years, the weight-obsessed culture can be quite tricky. Eating disorders in college students are mostly caused by the impression that skinny bodies are ideal. This concept of not belonging to the existing norms can lead to feeling inadequate and eventually distort their bodies’ perception. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia and have been increasing in recent years.
Body Image, Eating Disorders, and Mental Health
Eating disorder is a mental health concern, and the increasing number of people who continue to experience it can be alarming. Multiple behaviours that we can associate with eating disorders can potentially endanger one’s physical health and psychological well-being. Persistent thoughts of having a negative body image can lead some to believe that they should feel awkward, ashamed, and embarrassed about themselves. For some, they continue to convince themselves that they are not attractive and will never be.
Through their eating habits, they manipulate and condition themselves to impart a distorted form of positive reinforcement. Thus, it is necessary for anyone who lives with an eating disorder to receive care from medical professionals.
A multi-disciplinary team consisting of a dietician, a therapist, a medical doctor, and a prescriber working all together can provide you with the best support. Since an eating disorder is a complex mental health condition, particular interventions can help you stabilise both psychological and medical aspects.
Different Types of Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa is a form of an eating disorder that can be life-threatening. When one has anorexia nervosa, they manifest an exceedingly low body mass index with intense fears of gaining weight. They have a distorted perception of a healthy body image in which they feel the need to suppress their appetite. College students who have this eating disorder limit their food intake often at an alarming level. However, there are also some cases in anorexia nervosa wherein one will eat normally but eventually experience the urge to induce vomiting and purging after meals. Others also take laxatives and supplements or perform intense exercises in a conscious attempt to lose what they see as excess weight.
A person experiencing bulimia nervosa has the habit of binge eating and purging afterwards. Unlike anorexia, bulimia nervosa involves consuming tremendous amounts of food over a short period. After some time, they secretly go through an episode of getting rid of the food they eat by purging.
Some popular purging methods done by college students involve sticking their fingers on their throat to induce vomiting, excessively exercising, or the use of laxatives.
Overeating and Binge Eating
Not all eating disorders are about losing weight. In recent studies, the most common eating disorders in college students involve tending to overeat, and binge eat. Individuals who experience excessive eating have the compulsion to devour everything and lose their sense of control over their consumption. College students are prone to this disorder for several reasons, including academic stress, growing pains, and negative emotions. They find comfort in indulging themselves with abnormally abundant amounts of food with the likelihood of being insatiable.
Even though overeating and binge eating fall into the same category, a small detail differentiates one from the other. We can characterise binge eating disorder by noticing episodes where one eats without control that could last at least once a week for over three months. On the other side, overeating is much less extreme and occurs less frequently. Regardless of their differences in frequency and duration, both can still cause adverse effects on an individual’s health.
While it is customary to enjoy food, particularly on special occasions, eating more than the usual can become problematic if done frequently. Excessive eating leads to unwanted weight and obesity, which can cause serious health issues if not addressed immediately.
Other Types of Eating Disorders
Aside from the above, more types of eating disorders still need recognition from various medical and mental health organisations. College students are more likely to experience some of these conditions, including the following:
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (EDNOS and OSFED) – these conditions involve individuals with distressing issues and symptoms around food who still don’t fit into a specific eating disorder.
- Orthorexia- an unhealthy obsession for eating healthy and being particularly fixated with food quality.
- Muscle Dysmorphia- this condition most commonly affects males who have obsessive behaviour towards muscle building and extreme diets. Bigorexia is a more popular term for this condition.
- Diabulimia- college students who have type 1 diabetes withhold insulin and inject less than what is in their prescription to lose weight quickly.
Helping Students with Eating Disorders
Looking at eating disorders other than being a mental health condition is essential. With the high demands and pressures of college life, many factors can add up and contribute to these concerns’ development.
At this point, colleges should be well-trained and equipped to address and handle the increasing concern for eating disorders adequately. During their time at the university, students must be able to rely on counsellors as they are the only support system available at the campus. However, going to counselling centres can become a matter of embarrassment, which plays a significant role in identifying students’ struggles.
Aside from eliminating various factors that might cause trouble to students’ well-being, college campuses must be the avenue that will help put an end to mental health’s social norms.
Various organisations continue to find ways that will encourage everyone to seek mental help and counselling as needed. Making a positive shift to students’ mental outlook will not only change the way they see themselves but also help with their emotional struggles.
If the university cannot find a good counselling programme for its students for some reasons, reaching out to other local organisations and resources is necessary. With enough attention and treatment, we can help students be on their way towards a healthy mental and physical healing.
(Eating Disorders: Ending Unhealthy Standards of Beauty., April 2016).
(What Are Eating Disorders?, January 2017).
(Purging Disorder: What Is It?, February 2019).
(Binge-eating disorder, May 2018).