Eating Disorders

The truth about anorexia, bulimia and binge eating

Statistics show that more college students have an eating disorder than does any other segment of the population. It’s a staggering problem on campuses across the nation. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating (also called compulsive overeating). Both men and women are susceptible to these disorders.

What Causes Eating Disorders?

No one chooses to have an eating disorder. There are usually many interwoven factors that cause the disorder, and what serves as a factor varies from person to person. The most common factor seems to be depression relating to body image. Sometimes, an eating disorder starts when a person is dealing with the grief associated with a major loss or traumatic event, such as a divorce, death, breakup or rape. Recent evidence suggests that genetic factors are also involved.

Eating disorders affect your brain like an addiction. The control associated with deciding when and how much you eat can trigger a rush of euphoria. This is addictive. Your brain can be chemically altered to seek them over and over again, despite how damaging it may be to your body.

Symptoms

If you suspect that someone you know may have an eating disorder, watch for these signs:

Anorexia nervosa:

  • Extreme thinness
  • Weight loss over a short period of time
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Nausea, constipation or bloating
  • Dry hair and skin
  • A thin layer of “peach fuzz” that grows all over the body to keep it warm
  • Obsesses with food, but rarely eats anything
  • Complains about feeling fat, even if he or she is very thin
  • Social withdrawal
  • Refusal to admit that he or she has a problem
  • Excessive exercise

Bulimia nervosa:

  • Weight fluctuations (usually close to the ideal weight)
  • Eats large meals but never appears to gain any weight
  • Tries to hide eating food
  • Teeth begin to rot
  • Cheeks swell
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Goes to the bathroom immediately after eating
  • Uses laxatives or other diuretics

Binge eating:

  • Overweight or obese
  • Forces self to vomit
  • Eats when he or she isn’t even hungry
  • Eats so much it hurts
  • Feels out of control when eating
  • Always trying to diet but can never keep weight off

Getting Help

All eating disorders are treatable. If you (or someone you know) are suffering from eating disorder, get help. If left untreated, all eating disorders can become fatal. No one should have to face their disorder alone. Your campus may have an office that can help. If not, consult a local physician.

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