Raising Awareness on Eating Disorders of Your College Campus

Contributor: Erica Smith, MA, NCC, Timberline Knolls Staff

Site Description: Timberline Knolls, a nationally respected residential treatment center, specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, substance abuse and addiction, and mood disorders for adolescent girls and adult women. Through a holistic, individualized, and nurturing treatment approach, the goal of Timberline Knolls is to help residents achieve lifelong recovery.

Eating disorders plague countless individuals throughout the world today.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders, approximately 24 million people, including males and females of all ages, suffer from some type of eating disorder.

Dieting Is Common at College

Additionally, it is said that an estimated 95% of those individuals who suffer from eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26, meaning that college-aged students are a high risk population for experiencing the onset of eating disorder symptoms and subsequently engaging in eating disorder behaviors.

Furthermore, statistics regarding college students specifically have shown that around 91% of females on college campuses attempt to control their weight through various dieting practices, and approximately 25% of college-aged females report using binging and purging specifically as a method of losing and/or controlling their weight.

The Prominence of Eating Disorders

Needless to say, the prominence of eating disorders on college campuses is extreme. And, sadly, it has been estimated that about 50% of individuals who are struggling with eating disorders are simultaneously suffering from symptoms of clinical depression, introducing an entirely new host of problems for these students.

Further studies have shown that only one in every ten individuals who have an eating disorder seek and receive treatment in order to put an end to these behaviors.

Why College Students Are Prone to Eating Disorders

girl-577918_640But why are college-aged students so prone to developing eating disorders in the first place? There are a number of hypotheses, some of which include the following:

  • Upon entering college, individuals are suddenly confronted with many new pressures that they have not previously been exposed to, including academic pressures, increased peer pressure, and cultural influences.
  • Academic pressures can become overwhelming when individuals enter college, leading them to feel as though they do not have control over much of their circumstances. By engaging in disordered eating behaviors, they suddenly have something tangible over which they can have complete control.
  • Many students become involved in groups, such as fraternities or sororities, where group-thinking can become prominent. If eating disorders are an accepted behavior amongst one’s social group, it is more likely that he or she will begin to experiment with the behaviors as well.

Ways to Prevent or Decrease Eating Disorder Behaviors

So what can be done to help decrease the amount of college students who are engaging in these destructive, life-threatening behaviors? Raising awareness is of the utmost importance as steps are taken towards preventing, and ultimately eliminating, the prominence of eating disorders on college campuses.

The following are some suggestions of things that can be done to promote eating disorder awareness:

  • Develop a Facebook page and/or Twitter account that is specific to your university that addresses eating disorders and provides links to accessible resources
  • Post a blog where students can anonymously share their stories in order to support others, as well as gain support from others
  • Encourage campus counselors and student services to form a campaign that promotes awareness of eating disorders, and provides counseling services for those who are struggling with them
  • Encourage campus newspapers to dedicate a section (whether it be a one-time thing or an ongoing column) where students can write in and ask for advice
  • Set up a crisis hotline where students can call anonymously in order to receive help and encouragement in their time of need

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you promoted awareness of eating disorders on campus? What suggestions do you have for promoting awareness?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 16th, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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