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Western Kentucky University

Eating Disorder

The college years can be an exciting time of new opportunities and increased freedom. However, this transition can also present some challenges. One challenge of college life is assuming more responsibility for eating habits, including making choices in the dining hall and dorm and deciding if and when to eat in the midst of a busy schedule.

For those predisposed to developing an eating disorder, too many challenges can trigger substituting control over food for lack of control in other areas. Preoccupation with food and body image can also serve as a distraction from difficult feelings. The mean age of onset of eating disorders is most common in the college-aged years.

 

What's the big deal?  Are eating disorders really all that serious?

Over 5 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and over 90% of them are women. 1 in 10 anorexics will die from the effects of starvation, including cardiac arrest or suicide. There can be other life-long negative consequences from eating disorders, including stomach ulcers, eroded tooth enamel, osteoporosis, compromised digestive functioning and reduced fertility.

How can I tell if I have an Eating Disorder?

Although many individuals worry about food and body image, there are specific criteria used by mental health professionals to diagnose an eating disorder.

Anorexia:

• Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height
• Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
• Distorted body image, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or the denial of the seriousness of low body weight
• Amenorrhea in women (absence of at lease three consecutive menstrual cycles)

Bulimia:

            • Recurrent episodes of binge eating

            • Recurrent use of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, fasting, or excessive exercise to prevent weight gain

            • Self-evaluation unduly influenced by body shape and weight

 

How do I know if I need help?


Sometimes a specific event may trigger the initial onset of eating disorder symptoms (e.g. a diet that gets "out of control", leaving home, a relationship breakup, a negative comment about one's weight, or family problems).

Warning signs include:

• Binge eating, purging an/or strict dieting
• Obsessive preoccupation with food or body image
• Compulsive exercising
• Inability to stop eating
• Secretiveness or shame about eating
• Social isolation, low self esteem or depression

Okay, so where can I get help?

The therapists at the Counseling and Testing Center provides professional, confidential counseling for eating disorders. They can also help with referrals for off-campus treatment. The Counseling and Testing Center can be reached at (270) 745-3159.

Helpful Links:

Eating Disorder Self Test
Overview of Eating Disorders from the Mayo Clinic
Treatment for Eating Disorders from Radar Programs
How to Help a Friend from the National Eating Disorders Association
A Helpguide for Anorexia Nervosa
Information on Bulimia

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 Last Modified 9/24/14