While eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness, they also seem to be the most encouraged in media. Young people feel pressure to resemble the slim models of Instagram or television. Combined with the self-directed eating schedules and the general lack of supervision college affords, many college students silently suffer from eating disorders. To prevent further victims of nutritional self-harm, students must understand the prevalence of eating disorders on campus and seek help when necessary.
Eating disorders are not to be confused with disordered eating, which is unhealthy dieting or eating patterns according to the Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC). Some cases of disordered eating can be intentional, such as undergoing a restrictive diet. Others are accidental, such as when students forget to eat because of busy schedules or long study stretches. While both cause weight loss, disordered eating does not have the obsessive preoccupation with weight loss and the fear of gaining weight characteristic of eating disorders.
The individual’s age or sex does not matter as much as the internalization of unattainable body images. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, eating disorders involve deep dissatisfaction with one’s body image, no matter what weight that person maybe. To control weight, individuals may excessively restrict nutritional intake, indicative of anorexia nervosa, or ingest high amounts of food only to purge it through bulimic behaviors.
While these two eating disorders are well-known, the methods in which victims implement them hide behind everyday practices. As such, anyone can have a discrete eating disorder on campus. It is difficult to discern the harmfulness of why someone isn’t hungry, runs frequently or uses the bathroom after every meal. But respectfully investigating someone’s unhealthy habits can save lives.
Someone dies from an eating disorder every 62 seconds in the U.S. according to EDC. If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, please use the resources that exist on campus to get help. CAPS provides mental health professionals to students who seek to treat an eating disorder. For disordered eating, UGA Food Services offers nutritionists to teach student to maintain healthier eating habits.
Even for those who have healthy eating habits, identifying these traits in peers can prevent further self-induced harm to young bodies and remove the stigma around discussing eating disorders on campus.