Eating Disorders Prominent Among College Students

Contributed by: Jyoti Sachdeva, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

College is a fun and exciting time for a young man or woman but can also be very stressful and overwhelming. Moving away from home for the first time; studying for several hours a day; making new friends; dating – the list can go on and on. The combination of all of these responsibilities often leaves college students feeling anxious. While some might have an easier time adjusting to the college transition, others may feel overwhelmed and bombarded; often relying on copy mechanisms, such as controlling food consumption.

Types of College Student Eating Disorders

There are several types of eating disorders. Anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating are the most common types among college students. I’ve listed the most commons signs of these types of eating disorders so you know what to watch for if you suspect a loved one or friend suffers from an eating disorder.

Anorexia

Those with anorexia may take extreme measures to avoid eating. They often become abnormally thin but still talk about feeling overweight or bloated. Because they have a distorted image of their body, they typically continue to diet even when they’re underweight. Obsessive calorie counting; avoiding food; thinning hair; dry, flaky skin; and cracked or broken nails are also common signs of anorexia.

Bulimia

College students with bulimia usually binge and purge. Binging is the consumption of a large amount of food within a short period of time. Purging is forced vomiting. Those with bulimia may also compensate for their binging and purging by controlling their weight through excessive exercise, laxatives or diet pills. Just like anorexics, bulimics are always concerned about their weight and may also have a distorted image of their body. Other signs of bulimia include, hiding food; frequent trips to the bathroom after eating; and heavy presence of food containers and wrappers.

Binge-Eating

As the name implies, this eating disorder involves uncontrollable, excessing eating, followed by feelings of shame and guilt. Unlike those with bulimia, students that binge-eat typically don’t vomit after eating. However, many who have bulimia also have binge-eating disorder. Other signs include, being overweight or obese; eating in secret; eating when they’re not hungry; and experimenting with different diets.

If you know someone with an eating disorder, encourage them to seek professional counseling immediately. At the Women’s Center, we offer individualized treatment plans for eating disorders and other behavioral health conditions for men and woman as well as families. Remember, the longer an eating disorder goes untreated, the more advanced it is likely to become – and the more difficult to achieve a full recovery.

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