Body Image a Concern for Students of All Ages

Contributed Article by Dr. Kimberly Dennis, CEO/Medical Director Emeritus at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

For the millions of junior high, high school and college students heading back to school, the idea of returning to the classroom may be met with mixed emotions. While the school experience is built upon educational advancement, attending school is largely a social experience. Many students find themselves working harder to fit in than they do to succeed academically. The pressures of “fitting in” and “looking the part” can lead to serious issues with dangerous consequences for some students.

These pressures can take a toll on someone with a predisposition to emotional and behavioral conditions such as depression or an eating disorder. Social pressure may also have a negative impact on someone who never struggled before with body image or eating issues. Many students admit to feeling the pressure to have a good body, whether to fit into a certain clique or meet the weight requirements of an athletic team.

To cope with these unmanageable pressures, many students turn to what they believe they can control-their bodies and eating patterns.

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia are growing concerns in schools around the country. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, as many as 10 million females and one million males are fighting this life and death battle. Another 25 million people suffer from a binge eating disorder. Others exhibit some symptoms of these conditions (for example, poor attitudes about body weight and food), but do not meet full criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis..

Because eating disorders are usually shrouded in secrecy, it’s important for those suffering to reach out for assistance. It’s equally as important for parents, friends, teachers and other family members to recognize the signs of an eating disorder and support the individual in getting help. Eating disorders are highly treatable diseases, with best outcomes occurring when treatment is sought closest to the onset of symptoms. Some of the more common signs indicating a possible or probable eating disorder include:

  • A high level of concern about weight
  • Repeated attempts to control weight by diet, refusal of food, vomiting or laxative/diet pill/stimulant abuse.
  • Prolonged exercising despite fatigue and weakness.
  • Peculiar patterns regarding handling food.
  • Abnormally fast weight loss or gain, in the absence of any other known medical condition.
  • Depressed, anxious, or labile moods
  • Self-deprecating behavior.

Recognizing these symptoms in a friend or a loved one is the first step in getting help. Eating disorders are medical diseases for which there is no quick fix. However, with expert eating disorders treatment and ongoing 12-step support, the disease can be arrested one day at a time for the rest of your life.

Published Date: October 15, 2010
Last Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 19, 2011

Page last updated: June 12, 2012

Article Contributed by our Sponsor ~ Timberline Knolls Treatment Center
Published on, Online Eating Disorder Information