In today’s fast-paced society, everyone is always looking for quick and cheap food, especially us college students. For some, though, the choice is not that easy.
It is estimated that 4 to 10 percent of men and 10 to 20 percent of women in college suffer from an eating disorder. While that may not seem like a lot, eating disorders have the highest death rate of any mental health illness, according to the Eating Recovery Center.
Eating disorders have become common for multiple reasons. One reason is pressure from society. We see advertisements all around us, all of the time. Many people feel the need to live up to these unrealistic expectations, which can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.
Because a balanced diet is a large part of good health, suffering from an eating disorder can take over someone’s life. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of the various eating disorders so that we can help friends and family get the treatment they need and deserve.
For those with anorexia nervosa, symptoms include considerable weight loss, obsession with dieting or counting calories, avoiding mealtimes or eating with people, making comments about being “fat” and excessive exercise. If left untreated, anorexia can lead to serious health problems, including organ failure.
Another common eating disorder is bulimia nervosa. Bulimia is categorized by eating large amounts of food and then purging, or throwing up.
In contrast with anorexia, people who suffer from bulimia are typically a normal weight. Symptoms include skipping meals, using lots of mouthwash or gum, excessive exercise and frequent trips to the bathroom after eating. Like anorexia, bulimia can also lead to serious health problems.
In addition to knowing what symptoms accompany an eating disorder, it is also important to know how to take proactive measures so that a disorder is not developed.
First, know what campus resources are available so that you have a place to go if need be. Here at UTA, there are numerous campus resources. Students are given free counseling sessions each semester, a crisis hotline is active 24/7 and meditations are led twice a week.
Second, establish a support system. Most of us college students are going through similar experiences, and having someone there for you can make a world of difference.
Lastly, practice healthy ways of coping. Take a walk, call a friend or family member, take a bubble bath or journal. Whatever it is, have a healthy way of managing your stress.
College, while stressful, is one of the most fun and rewarding times for students. Raising awareness for any mental health problems, including eating disorders, can guide those of us who may be battling these obstacles.
The more we educate ourselves about the harms of eating disorders, the better we can help our friends and family overcome their danger.