College & Eating Disorders: Know the Warning Signs

Going to college is an exciting time in an adolescent’s life! Everything is new: new freedoms, new experiences, new friends, and new life paths. It is also a major life transition that is stressful and demanding. This transition often triggers an eating disorder in those who are genetically pre-disposed or otherwise vulnerable. Early detection and intervention are critical as eating disorders can be so devastating.

Eating disorders are the deadliest of all mental health issues, so they are not something to take lightly. Support of family and friends is often needed in helping someone seek proper treatment and recovery. Statistics show that as many as 10% of college women suffer from an eating disorder. Men develop eating disorders, too; an estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.

Warning Signs

Here are some warning signs that might help you recognize an eating disorder in yourself or someone you love. If you suspect someone has an eating disorder, please help them seek treatment with a qualified therapist as soon as possible!

Warning signs of Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, dieting, clothing size
  • Denying hunger
  • Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • Development of food rituals and excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
  • An excessive, rigid exercise regimen, despite weather, fatigue, illness or injury

 

Warning signs of Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Evidence of binge-eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time and evidence of purging behaviors
  • evidence of purging behaviors: frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, and/or the presence of laxatives or diuretics
  • creation of complex lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions
  • excessive, rigid exercise regimen despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury
  • unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • discoloration or staining of the teeth
  • calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting

 

Warning signs of Binge Eating Disorder:

  • dramatic weight gain
  • evidence of binge-eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time
  • creation of complex lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for private binge-eating sessions
  • finding large amounts of food stockpiled in a hiding place for secret binges

 

Stacey Wald, LAPC, RD

Swald @growcounseling.com

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