College and Eating Disorders
For many teenagers, college serves as an opportunity for many firsts. The college experience is often the first time students live without their families and a concrete set of rules. Unfortunately, dealing with an eating disorder is among these firsts for many college students.
25% of College Students Have Eating Disorders
According to Ammenheuser (2012), “The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 25% of college students have eating disorders. The same percent of college women report managing weight by binging and purging, says the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.”
College students may feel the pressure to excel in the classroom, socially, and as the statistic above suggests, many feel the pressure to obtain a certain physical appearance. As stated by Someah (2012), “According to Danielle Aubin, Intake Coordinator for New Dawn Eating Disorder Recovery Center, college serves as a rewarding system for perfectionists. ‘You get an A for success and an F for failure. That is not such a self-accepting and peaceful environment in general. It is competitive and can really make a person think of themselves as a number whether it is a GPA or BMI.’”
Because there are such a large percentage of people affected by eating disorders, it is important to be aware of the signs of these disorders. Students are often living separately from their families making it difficult for parents to monitor their children. Using the vacation time between semesters may be an ideal time for parents to check in with their children; parents should take notice of any change in their children’s physical appearance, whether they seem depressed or isolated, or if children are obsessing over food, how their clothes fit, or their size (Ammenheuser, 2012).
Parents should also remember that eating disorders do not only affect women. Men are also affected by eating disorders in college. Ammenheuser (2012) states that “The association says 10% to 15% of anorexics and bulimics are male.”
Eating Disorders Know No Gender
Whether male or female, there are specialized treatment programs to help individuals affected by eating disorders or disordered eating. These specialists are trained on how eating disorders are maintained and can design treatment plans to meet the needs of each individual. There are also therapeutic groups and family therapists that can provide support for families affected by eating disorders.
Though there may always be excitement or anxiety surrounding the life transition for teenagers who enter college, having the awareness and knowledge of eating disorder behavior will help support these individuals who will be affected. Having this knowledge and getting help from experts as needed, the college experience can signify a significant milestone in the life of a teenager rather than marking the start of an eating disorder.
Ammenheuser, M. (2012, December 27). Winter break is a good time to assess changes in college-age students. USA TODAY.
Someah, K.L. (2012, August 6). Why are College Students Vulnerable to Eating Disorders?.