By JULIE RAMBIN, Ranger Reporter:
Eating disorders have received coverage in pop culture, but the misconceptions often outweigh the facts. These disorders are not a simple matter of a lifestyle choice, but “a disorder that people need to take seriously,” said Counseling Center staff member Lindsey Eggleston.
Eating disorders disproportionately affect young women, but can affect anyone of any age. Though help is available, eating disorders are often difficult to treat.
“Eating disorders involve issues of obsessions over body weight and shape, self-worth and self-control,” Eggleston said. “People who struggle with eating disorders are usually seeking a way to gain control through food.”
The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, but eating disorders are not simply about the what a person eats. “It is important to remember that eating disorders are about more than just the over-consumption or avoidance of consuming food,” Eggleston said.
Some of the behaviors a person with an eating disorder may exhibit include having restrictive rules about food, not eating in front of others, focusing on body shape and size and wearing clothes that are too large and baggy.
“If you feel that you know someone who may have an eating disorder, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and voice your concern,” Eggleston said.
It’s important to take it seriously if you suspect someone may have an eating disorder. Help is available, and the sooner someone gets help, the more effective it may be.
“I know somebody right now with an eating disorder,” said biology major Yesinia Ortega. “She’s been in and out of facilities since she was young.”
Ortega spoke about the significant effect this person’s eating disorder has had on her life and family.
“Her mom lost her job having to take care of her daughter. She started missing work too much,” Ortega said. “It’s really sad and really hard.”
Societal prejudices can be harmful to people with eating disorders, Ortega said, and a lack of understanding can be especially hurtful.
“I don’t think it’s recognized enough. More as a ‘you’re just trying to get skinny’ thing when really it’s so beyond that. These are serious mental health issues,” Ortega said.
Help is available for any student struggling with an eating disorder. “Students who are enrolled at AC can receive free counseling sessions from our counseling center,” Eggleston said.
Counseling is available for a range of psychological, emotional, and personal difficulties and the service is free to all currently enrolled AC students.
“If you are struggling with an eating disorder, the best thing to do is to talk to a professional,” Eggleston said.
“I’m worried my friend might have an eating disorder.”
“Where can I find help?”
Here are a few signs and symptoms of the three most common eating disorders:
• Extremely restricted eating
• A relentless pursuit of thinness
• Intense fear of gaining weight
• Distorted body image
• Worn tooth enamel and decaying teeth
• Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
• Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
• Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about your eating
• Frequent dieting
If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, contact your primary health care provider.
In an emergency, dial 911.
For more information about eating disorders, visit nimh.nih.gov and search “eating disorder.”