Eating disorders problem among college students

March 2, 2012 Latest Print Print
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College age women, or even younger, are most prone to disordered eating, said Rebecca Williams, a licensed professional counselor who works with clients dealing with this issue.

In a speech on campus Feb. 22, Williams said “disordered eating” is the term used by professionals. Fifteen percent of women 17 to 24 years old suffer from this problem.

Disordered eating is an attitude about food, weight, and body size that significantly affects your life in a negative way, Williams said. Eating disorders affect more women then men.

The most common are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.

Anorexia nervosa is defined as dramatic weight loss, due to not eating enough calories.

Bulimia nervosa is binging and purging. With this disorder, the person eats enough food, but then induces vomiting or uses laxatives to expel the food before it can be absorbed by the body.

Binge eating, a compulsive eating disorder, involves consumption of large amounts of food in short periods of time. Binge eating, especially, is anxiety and depression driven, Williams said.

Williams is director of Caba EAS, an employment assistance program. Thirty people came to hear her speech.

Disordered eating results from women, and some men, striving to be so thin they cause themselves harm.

Eighty percent of women in the U.S. report they are dissatisfied with their appearance, Williams said.

She said her first major interaction with an eating disorder was in her college years, when her roommate suffered with bulimia. Her disease got so bad that their living area smelled like vomit from all the purging.

Williams and her other friends were able to get the young woman home to her family when her bulimia got out of hand.

Through her encounter with disordered eating, Williams said, she learned the individual may be incapable of recognizing the seriousness of the situation and seek help on her own. Only 6 percent of people with bulimia receive mental health care.

Williams said those enslaved to disordered eating patterns can break free.

“Every moment is a new start,” Williams said. Long-term counseling is often one of the solutions to the problem, Williams said. Long-term counseling is needed to break the cycle of unhealthy behavior. There is no quick fix, only slow progress, when it comes to disordered eating.

A big problem is that a lot of people go undiagnosed, Williams said.

That’s where friends may have to step in to help. Williams said friends have to be supportive and listen and suggest professional help in a gentle way.

On the OCCC campus, students can turn to professionals if they need help for themselves or for a friend.

Student Support Services offer free counseling for students Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 405-682-7520

For reading material on eating disorders, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org.

To contact Natalie Storgards, email onlineeditor@occc.edu.

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