Eating Disorders Can Show Up in Freshmen During Winter Break: Know the Signs
You are ecstatic that your “baby” is home from college for the holidays. You barely get a hug in at the airport because she has so many bags and so many layers of winter clothes on. But when you get home and all of the layers of coats and sweaters peel off, you notice for the first time that your college freshman is so thin that her head seems too big for her body. You voice your concerns. But she shrugs them off with a mumbled comment about how stressful finals were. Many expertswarn not to ignore the red flag signs of an eating disorder in your freshman home for the holidays.
According to those who work with this population the transition to college nearly tops the list of the most common life stages in which eating disorders develop. Even though efforts have recently been made to debunk the myth of the “Freshmen Fifteen,” students face the fear of gaining weight and many other pressures of being away at school- including academic and social stressors. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 25 percent of college students suffer from anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, or related behaviors, compared with only one to five percent of the general public. And take note: One in ten sufferers is male. Other studies show that most teens with eating disorders go untreated. So many freshmen start college already with eating disorders in place. Unfortunately, they find themselves in not-so-good company– surrounded by others also suffering disorders. As Shannon Hurd, former anorexic college student, states on collegebound.net: “college is a breeding ground for eating disorders” On some campuses, a culture of extreme dieting and starvation is well in place. Hurd states that on her campus, eating disorders had reached epidemic proportions.
To say that these behaviors are common place, is not to imply that they are at all acceptable. Eating disorders can lead to very serious health complications., which include, according to the Mayo Clinic, heart disease, depression, suicidal thoughts, absence of menstruation, bone loss, seizures, kidney damage, severe tooth decay and more. The Center offers a list of things to watch for over the holiday break:
Here are the FIVEWINTERBREAK WARNINGSIGNS:
Noticeable Weight Loss or gain since your student started college
Helping prepare holiday meals but not eating them
Excessive exercise, even in weather conditions that are adverse
Withdrawal from family and friends and avoidance of gatherings
Discussing college in an obvious anxious manner or avoiding conversations about school altogether
Experts also urges parents to be vigilant when they notice warning signs in their college-aged child. In light of the profound and dangerous impact of eating disorders on health, early intervention is important to treatment success. “Eating disorders are complex and particularly difficult to treat. In fact, they have one of the highest mortality rates among all mental disorders,” says National Institute of Mental Health Director, Thomas Insel, M.D.
Don’t ignore the signs. Dr. Patrice Lockhart, tells EmpoweringParents.com: “It’s important to trust your instincts when it comes to your child.” If you suspect you are witnessing signs of an eating disorder, seek treatment. Consult your family physician right away.
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