Many young women enter college excited to join a sorority to make lifelong friends and be active within their college community however joining a sorority has been linked to devastating risks in terms of appearances, low self esteem, body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders. Studies have shown that 23-32% of females on college campuses have an eating disorder and although a lot of awareness has been raised about these issues, many young women are still affected by the peer pressures of trying to fit in and the sorority rush week. Rush week is the initial week where sororities open their doors and interview fellow college female students to see if they fit in with their fellow sorority members. The process varies from university to university, but it’s essentially like speed dating: girl briefly meets sorority members, the members decide if they like girl, and girl is either invited back for another meeting or erased from the sorority’s list of potential members. The decision is mostly based on the appearance and the first impression. Some sororities have been known to accept girls simply based off of how they look and if they are overweight or not. Studies have shown that college females who join sororities are more likely to judge their own bodies and engage in bulimic behaviors than those individuals who did not join a sorority. Although many chapters around the country have raised awareness on “fat shaming”, body image and eating disorders, sororities still promote underlying body dissatisfaction among college campuses. While sororities, or even rejection from them, do not directly cause eating disorders, the body-image issues involved can lead some individuals with propensity for an eating disorder to develop later on.
How dieting can trigger eating disorders
The term “diet” is also commonly used and practiced on college campuses around the nation. Whether it is a female sorority member trying to lose a couple pounds or even a male athlete trying to gain muscle and lose weight, dieting can be a dangerous practice and can potentially result in body shaming, disordered eating and eating disorders.
Eating disorders prevalence on college campuses
Studies have shown that approximately 90% of women on college campuses have attempted to control their weight through dieting and it is known that a fraction of individuals who diet will develop an eating disorder at some point during their lifetime. Additionally, up to 19% of college aged females in the United States have bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder is most likely known to occur during the late adolescence or in the early twenties. Practicing self-care during this critical period is extremely important to prevent mental health disorders such as eating disorders as well as substance abuse disorders. Alcohol use disorder is known to be extremely prevalent on college campuses and it is known that alcohol use often co-occurs with eating disorders. Eating adequately and on a consistent schedule is very important to maintain a healthy and nutritious lifestyle.
Seeking treatment for eating disorders while in a sorority
Although joining a sorority can increase your risk of disordered eating, a sorority can offer many great things such as camaraderie, friendship, future job potential and many worthy life experiences. Adjusting to college life can be difficult especially if you have a history of an eating disorder. Additionally developing an eating disorder during your sorority years in college can be difficult to navigate. Most, if not all, college campuses offer mental health services that can help you get into touch with a community group, an eating disorder specialist and a therapist that can help you navigate your way to recovery. Eating disorders are best treated with a multi-treatment approach including psychotherapy, group sessions and nutritional counseling. It is up to you if you choose to disclose your eating disorder status with any of your fellow sorority members, depending if you are comfortable discussing these issues. Close friends may offer advice and can be your rock and it is a good idea to establish a safe supportive community around you.