Eating Concerns and Disorders

It is quite common to develop unhealthy relationship patterns with food and a negative relationship with one’s body, especially when we are bombarded with messages about societal standards of beauty and attractiveness.  Striving to maintain high levels of control over what we eat, how we look, and how we are perceived can consume significant time and emotional energy, and can intensify during stressful times. The transition from home to college life and the ongoing academic and social challenges of being a college student contributes to why the college years represent the greatest time of risk for developing an eating disorder.

Disordered eating often includes following restrictive and rigid diets (e.g. eliminating food groups, low calorie, good/bad food labeling, fad diets…), eating large amounts of food with a sense of loss of control or binge eating and then relying on compensatory behaviors in an effort to calm anxiety and ‘undo’ the eating episode (e.g. excessive exercise, laxatives, diet pills, or vomiting).  Although struggling with an eating disorder can be very emotionally draining, disordered eating behaviors can provide a brief escape from unpleasant emotions or rigid diet rules, or a distraction from life stressors, and that temporary coping function can make breaking out of disordered eating cycles challenging.  Given how much our daily lives and social gatherings involve food, eating disorders can make everyday tasks very stressful and at times overwhelming.    

Eating disorders do not discriminate and affect people from all ethnic, gender identity, sexual identity, and socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States.  More than 30 million people in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder, and the prevalence continues to be on the rise. The most common forms of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorder).  Although we recognize diagnostically distinct eating disorders, disordered eating behaviors similarly occur across the diagnostic categories in that individuals who struggle with binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa often also engage in restrictive eating behavior, and those who struggle with anorexia nervosa, often also struggle with binging and compensatory behavior.  The psychological, physical and medical consequences of eating disorders are significant and often include malnutrition, bone density loss, dehydration, gastrointestinal disturbances, emotional lability, sleep disturbance, increased anxiety, and electrolyte disturbances that can interfere with cardiac functioning.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. 

For specific information on each eating disorder, please visit: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders

If you are concerned about your relationship with food or struggling to accept yourself and your body, reach out to CAPS to make an appointment for an assessment and to explore treatment options.  If you have concerns about a friend, express your concern in an empathic, nonjudgmental way and encourage her/him/them to make an appointment at CAPS. It is also an option to schedule a CAPS appt. to discuss your concerns about a friend and how to best encourage treatment.