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Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a complex issue. It is estimated that more than half of college students, especially women, have some form of body image concerns, although most do not have an eating disorder. Both men and women in college are vulnerable to developing an eating disorder as a way of managing the feelings of stress and the pressure of college life. There are many reasons why someone will develop an eating problem, however, common triggers are an over focus on physical appearance as a means of gaining self-esteem, difficulty talking about feelings, peer pressure, and a desire to fit in. In addition, there are societal pressures telling us that being thin is an ideal standard, when in fact most people are not naturally as thin as the images portrayed.

Though occasional overeating and restrictive dieting do not necessarily signal a problem, increased frequency and duration of certain eating-related patterns may indicate the existence of a more serious problem. It is when these behaviors begin to dominate a person's life and take precedence over everything else that an eating disorder may exist. What frequently begins as a solution to a problem can become an even bigger problem itself.

The three most common eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by a person being 15 percent below their normal body weight; feels fat, despite being thin; persistent fear of being fat; restricted eating; and erratic menstrual cycle or a loss of menstrual cycle for at least three months.
  • Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a person engaging in recurrent episodes of binge eating, followed sometimes by attempts to purge through self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, or excessive exercising. The person may or may not purge. The person is often secretive about binging and/or purging. The person will also feel a loss of control over eating.
  • Binge Eating Disorder is similar to bulimia, however, the person does not engage in behaviors to manage uncomfortable feelings about eating such as vomiting, excessive exercising, laxatives, etc. The person engages in recurrent episodes of binge eating and feels a loss of control.

Some of the warning signs of an eating problem include the following:

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Feeling weak or fatigued
  • Constipation
  • Excessive or compulsive exercising
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Dehydration and kidney problems
  • Amenorrhea (absent of menstrual cycle)
  • Fine body hair called "lanugo" develops on the arms
  • Stomach acid erodes tooth enamel

Many students may not even know that they have an eating disorder, and for those who know they have an eating disorder it can be difficult for them to seek help. If you are concerned that you, or someone you know may have an eating disorder, get help. The longer an eating disorder goes untreated, the greater the medical and psychological consequences.

To schedule an appointment with the Health Services counselor, call 218-726-7913.

Eating Disorder Checklist

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Last modified on 01/19/12 04:34 PM
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