Editor’s Note: We crush on women every day, but we crush hard on women on Wednesdays. While eating disorders can affect any and all genders (also, what is gender?), it disproportionately affects those who identify as female. That’s why we’re dedicating today to podcast that breaks down the facts behind eating disorders and offers some solutions.
Attending college brings a lot of exciting and challenging stress that can be difficult to manage when stepping into an independent role in a new environment. The increase in stress and pressure both academically and socially can trigger mental health problems among college students and a greater need for mental health services. These mental health needs can transform into mental illnesses among which eating disorders are common and increasing. Prevalence of eating disorders is increasing among college students. A study conducted in 2011 found that eating disorders had increased from 23 to 32% in women and students eating in accordance to a special weight loss diet increased from 4.2% to 22% (White, 2011).
Eating disorders are estimated to occur in 5 to 10 million young and adult women in the United States. Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a combination of behavioral, biological, psychological, emotional, interpersonal, and social factors. Eating disorders can start as a preoccupation with weight, but often involve an underlying emotional trigger or cause. The dieting, binging, and purging behaviors can be coping mechanisms for painful emotions or a mechanism of delusional control in one’s life. However, these behaviors can damage mental, emotional, and physical health. The behaviors that give a perceived sense of control ultimately lead to lost competence, control, and self-esteem. Having appropriate treatment options in order to restore a healthy life is the best way to recover and treat eating disorders.
I have collaborated with college students affiliated with Tulane University and a former Tulane University eating disorders-specialized therapist to engage in conversations surrounding the etiology of eating disorders, what living with an eating disorder is like on a college campus, the lack of treatment options, and finding balance as a college student. In my research, I have found that treatment options are not readily available to college students, especially as the need increases. Additionally, eating disorders are very stigmatized which make it hard for college students to speak up and find adequate treatment options. I believe it is important to have quality conversations about stigmatized topics in order to break barriers and provide options toward those who need it.
Eating disorders can be taunting, full of self-hate and loathing at points where you feel the most alone where it seems there is no end in sight. However, reframing thoughts surrounding eating and your body and living according to your values and gaining sense of self-worth, you can get a glimpse to what life is like without being consumed by these disordered thoughts surrounding eating. Starting treatment can be extremely difficult, especially when you feel out of control and alone. However, seeking treatment can be a life changing decision when suffering with an eating disorder and there are many resources. The National Eating Disorder Association provides a great guide to starting treatment. The National Eating Disorder Association helpline is available via chat, call, or text at (800)931-2237 where helpline volunteers can help you find the right support. For crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at the Crisis Text Line.
To understand eating disorders as they are perceived and acquired in the present day and spread a message that will hopefully help my community, I conducted research and personal interviews to create a podcast on the topic of eating disorders that expands upon the topics mentioned. I would like to thank those interviewees – Colleen, Helena, and Dr. Chavez – for being so honest and contributing to this work. What started as a surface level interest turned into some of the most insightful work I have done and hopefully it can help those who need it.
To find resources and support, call or visit the pages below:
National Eating Disorders Association: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline
National Eating Disorders Helpline: (800)931-2237
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Related Disorders: https://anad.org/
NEDA Help, Support, & Screening: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support