First-year students (and their parents!) usually have expectations about college life long before actually leaving home. Some students look forward to college, and are eager to experience more freedom and adventure, while others may feel enthusiastic initially, only to discover that they don't feel happy, comfortable, or secure in their new environment.
An eating disorder is a serious medical illness. Eating disorders can be characterized by limiting food take or overeating. Sometimes exercise, vomiting, laxatives, or diuretics are used to eliminate food and calories from the body.
A common misconception is that everyone with an eating disorder is visibly skinny or at a low body weight. Eating disorders are generally kept secret, and people may deny that they have a problem.
The main types of eating disorders are:
Look for these signs and symptoms:
There are many factors that may contribute to developing an eating disorder, including:
Eating disorders can become chronic and life-threatening if not identified or treated in their early stages. Treatment of eating disorders is often tailored specifically on an individual basis. Most treatments involve forms of psychotherapy and psychological counseling in connection with nutrition and medical support. Counseling, medical, and nutritional help should always be given by a health care or mental health professional. Relapse rates from eating disorders are estimated at 30 – 50%, so long term monitoring and treatment is important.
To help prevent eating disorders in yourself and others, you can:
It is important that treatment for eating disorders be provided by a health care or mental health provider. If you are constantly preoccupied with food, body image, or exercise, consider contacting a health care provider.
Helping a friend or loved one with an eating disorder can save a life. You can help by engaging them in an open dialogue with the goal of seeking help from a health care provider. When deciding whether to discuss these issues with someone, think about your relationship to the individual. Does he or she consider you a close, trusted, and appropriate person to confront them about this issue? Before talking to your friend, consider these suggestions:
Authored by: Peer Health Educator
Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Mental Health Clinic staff, January 2014
Understanding the barriers to parent-college student communication is a critical step toward providing practical support for college students.