Snow College Wellness Center seeks to help students by celebrating National Eating Disorder Awareness Week February 24-29. It will focus on providing information about body image, positive self-talk, building self-esteem. It will explain how they affect the individuals suffering with these mentally, emotionally and physically damaging disorders.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost a million people suffer from some form of eating disorders in the United States. People from all sexes, ethnicities, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds are affected by these disorders.
However, people between the ages of 14 to 25 are the most commonly diagnosed with these disorders and are also predominately female, which puts many from the average Snow College student demographic at risk.
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders provides statistics about how these conditions specifically affect student populations:
• 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting. 22% dieted “often” or “always.”
• 86% report onset of eating disorder by age 20; 43% report onset between ages of 16 and 20.
• Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
• 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
• 25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.
• The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
• Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
• In a survey of 185 female students on a college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight, and of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were of normal weight.
Though these potentially life-threatening disorders are of a physical and behavioral nature, they are a symptom of emotional and mental suffering. This pain is typically the catalyst for negative, many times distorted, “body-image” beliefs and the concerted efforts that people make to alter their perceived physique.
Professionals in the fields of psychology and medicine attribute the pressures of societal expectations, commercial advertising and cultural gender roles to be highly influential in contributing to the development of eating disorders.
Some professionals suggest that a knowledge of the disorders themselves can contribute to their development in individuals. According to an article from the New York Times, entitled “The Americanization of Mental Illness”, eating disorders can be influenced by cultural awareness. Dr. Sing Lee, a psychiatrist and researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, while initially studying a type of Anorexia nervosa unrelated to “fat-phobia,” observed the way a Westernized type of Anorexia spread through society as the media increased its coverage of those who had suffered and died from their struggle with the illness.
“Lee once saw two or three anorexic patients a year; by the end of the 1990s he was seeing that many new cases each month. That increase sparked another series of media reports. “Children as Young as 10 Starving Themselves as Eating Ailments Rise,” announced a headline in one daily newspaper. By the late 1990s, Lee’s studies reported that between 3 and 10 percent of young women in Hong Kong showed disordered eating behavior. In contrast to Lee’s earlier patients, these women most often cited fat phobia as the single most important reason for their self-starvation. By 2007 about 90 percent of the anorexics Lee treated reported fat phobia. New patients appeared to be increasingly conforming their experience of anorexia to the Western version of the disease.”
According to Lee, press coverage and the diagnostic popularization of Anorexia amongst professionals contributed to a profound increase in the prevalence and pathological expression of the disorder in Hong Kong society.
Mayoclinic.org defines Anorexia nervosa as:
“an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. People with anorexia nervosa attempt to maintain a weight that’s far below normal for their age and height. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia nervosa may starve themselves or exercise excessively. Anorexia nervosa isn’t really about food. It’s an unhealthy way to try to cope with emotional problems.”
Separate but no less severe, Bulimia nervosa is defined as:
“a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia may secretly binge — eating large amounts of food — and then purge, trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. For example, someone with bulimia may force vomiting or do excessive exercise.”
Those who would like to participate in support of the Wellness Center’s initiative come to the Greenwood Student Center during the week of February 24. Check snow.edu for more information.