An eating disorder is just one of the many endeavors a student may face upon reaching college. There are several risks and factors one must know in order to handle this disorder properly. In order to prevent and overcome this condition, there must be a better understanding of its nature among college students.
How Common is Eating Disorder Among College Students?
Going to college is a great challenge for every student as it is the period of meeting new peers and facing harder endeavors in academic life. There are a lot of stress factors which make college really challenging such as school workload, peer pressure, low self-esteem, identity crisis, and anxiety.
A combination of these things can be quite a handful for any student and eating is one of the common ways of relieving stress. This is where eating disorders come in and it is very common among young college women. To get a better picture of how it is affecting college students, here are some important statistics about it.
College Eating Disorder Statistics
- In general, around 30 million people in the U.S. are suffering from an eating disorder
- After 2011, there is a spike from 7.9 to 25 percent of male students with eating disorders while 23.4 to 32.6 percent for female students in college campuses
- The eating disorder typically starts at the age of 18 to 21 years old
- This behavioral disorder affects 10 to 20 percent of college women while 4 to 10 percent of college men
- An estimate of 27 percent male students while 44 percent of female students are doing serious diet plans to lose some weight
- The eating disorder normally hits athletic college students
What Causes College Eating Disorder?
The occurrence of this disorder among college students cannot be rooted to one single factor. There are plenty of factors underlying the progression of this unhealthy behavior among students. Most of these factors are external to the person and cannot be readily controlled. To further understand this condition, below are the common causes and triggers for an eating disorder.
Causes and Triggers of College Eating Disorder
- The insecurity of one's physical figure
- The frustration of losing or gaining some weight
- Fear and anxiety of gaining too much weight
- Hearing other students talk about workout and diet plans
- The frequent habit of binge eating
- Feeling that clothing seems to no longer fit or too loose
- Past traumatic experience of being bullied due to being fat or too thin
- Feeling overwhelmed about school workload
What Are the Common Signs of College Eating Disorder?
There is no better way of handling and preventing this condition other than knowing the common signs of its existence in a person. There is great difficulty in determining if one has an eating disorder because its symptoms are seen as ordinary among college students. Likewise, the sense of fear and shame felt by a student of having this condition adds a barrier toward seeking help.
To increase self-awareness, here are some of the common signs for this condition.
- Discreet eating
- Excessive use of laxatives and diet pills
- Relentless anxiety about body image
- The student strongly relates self-worth with good body shape
- The students feel guilty of eating too much
- Inability to notice that one has eaten too much already
- Upon knowing one has eaten too much, the person goes into intense fasting and over work-out
- Feeling sad or depressed if one gained some weight
- The uncontrolled desire to weigh oneself two to three times each day
- The habit of computing calories of food before eating
What Can the University or School Do About it?
The University or College Campus is where most of the students spend their time. Consequently, this means that academic establishments play a greater role in mitigating and helping students with this behavioral disorder. The school is not just a place for academic learning but also a venue for shaping good behavior among learners.
Here are some strategies or action plans implemented by most Universities and College Campuses:
- Having a school staff with expertise and specialization about eating disorders
- Students are given one-on-one therapy sessions regarding eating disorder
- Giving out informational pamphlets and brochures to spread education about this disorder
- A free online screening website for students to log in and check if one has the condition
- Having a nutritionist inside the college campus
How Can You Help Someone with an Eating Disorder?
Students with eating disorders are experiencing serious problems where unhealthy eating habits have become one's coping mechanism. Likewise, this unhealthy eating behavior affects the student's mind and bodily functions whether malnourished or obese. In reaching out to them, one must practice cautiousness in words and actions in order to prevent any offensive interventions.
Here are some tips one can adapt to reaching out to them.
- Timing is everything: When planning to talk and help a student with this condition. Make sure one must schedule them for an appointment where the student is available. Likewise, the venue for the conversation must be quiet and away from any distractions.
- Express one’s intention for reaching out: Students with this condition are highly sensitive and may be skeptical about your intention for reaching out to them. To prevent any misunderstanding, it is better to disclose one’s sincere reason for reaching out to them. In this way, the student will be more open to talking and transparent in the whole conversation.
- Assist in finding self-motivation: Change is effective if the student is willing and motivated to change for the better. In order to help them, assist the person in finding strong reasons to develop self-motivation to change one’s unhealthy behavior.
- Exercise extreme patience and understanding: Dealing and handling people with this condition can be quite a handful. This is true because students with this condition tend to build a wall between themselves and others. The presence of self-denial and the “wall” can exhaust one’s patience and understanding in helping them. In order to extend one’s patience and understanding, remember these students are victims of prejudices and they need genuine support.
How Can You Handle Eating Disorder?
This unhealthy eating behavior is a misguided coping mechanism practiced by students. Their healthier ways of coping with various stressors in life and this unhealthy behavior are not part of it. Below are some ways to avoid or slowly eliminate this disorder.
- Learn healthier ways of handling stress: Instead of binge eating, there are several means of relieving stress such as painting, sketching, doing dance lessons, or taking a cold shower.
- Avail of school programs about this disorder: Many college campuses and universities have implemented health programs to address this growing issue of eating disorders. Do not be afraid and ashamed, talk to the guidance counselor about it.
- Place a limitation on oneself: Having fun is not bad, just make sure one must have a limitation to it. Too much or too little of anything can be detrimental to oneself.
- Maintain open communication with family and friends: Talking has proven to be an effective means of relieving stress and pain. If one feels the burden is too heavy already, do not hesitate to call your family or friend and talk things out.