Does My Friend Have An Eating Disorder?

Posted on 02/08/13 11:18:am

How Do You Know and What Should You Do.


College is a time filled with uncertainty and angst. Did I pass the test? Does he or she like me? I have to do my own laundry? Unfortunately, that feeling of being out of control leads to something a student feels the can control. Their diets.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 25% of college students have eating disorders. Developed as s a way of "coping,” many student mention the word “control” as one factor they believe contributes to their eating disorder.

As a friend or family member there are things you can do to encourage and support someone as they struggle. First get informed. There are various resources out there via the internet, books and even your college counseling center that can help you understand what is happening and how the cyclic behavior can be modified.

Second, encourage your friend or family member to talk. Communicate your concerns objectively and listen to what they have to say about their anxieties, discouragements or even why they feel good about themselves.

How do I know if someone has an eating disorder?

In general, behavior and attitude will indicates that weight loss, dieting and control of food are becoming primary concerns over and above other concerns. Some basic indications of an eating disorder include:

  • Binge eating: Larger than normal quantities of food disappear. Wrappers or containers indicating large amounts of food was consumed.
  • Purging: Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals. Signs/smells of vomiting. Laxative packages/ diuretic packages.
  • Excessive exercise: Exercise is used to burn off all calories consumed.
  • Dental issues: Discoloration or staining of the teeth.
  • Withdrawal: Specifically to make space for rituals of binge and purge sessions.
  • Dramatic weight loss: Frequent comments about feeling “FAT”
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting: Food rituals or food controlling behavior.
  • Avoiding mealtimes: Excuses to avoid situations involving food

What does treatment look like?

Just like breaking an arm or a leg, eating disorders need to be treated by a medical professional who specializes in treatment of eating disorders. Many college students have inner struggles, preventing them from wanting to seek recovery. This is part of the challenge a friend or family member will face, convincing a student to get help and understand the nature of the illness.


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