Eating disorders affect people of every age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, size, ability, and background. While the college years can be an exciting time of new opportunities and increased freedom, the transition to college can also present new challenges. Eating disorders are particularly prevalent during college-age years with the average age of onset between 18 and 20 years old.
The development of an eating disorder is multi-factorial. It is often a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. Some of these factors may be:
- Living away from home for the first time
- Increased need for personal responsibility
- Living with roommate(s) and lack of personal space/privacy
- An abundance of food choices at dining halls/deciding when to eat during the day
- Loss of structure and change in routine from semester to semester
- Academic and financial pressures
- Exposure to social media that can create FOMO
- Navigating new platonic and romantic relationships
- Achieving the “ideal body size”/Fear of the “freshman 15”
- Exposure to alcohol and drugs
HOW DO I KNOW IF I (OR A FRIEND) HAVE AN EATING DISORDER?
Just as there are many stressors that can lead to the onset of an eating disorder, the signs and symptoms of one can be just as varied. Here are some of the more common examples:
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, macros, dieting, body size, body image
- Dramatic weight loss or rapid fluctuations in weight
- Distorted view of body size and shape
- Eating alone or only eating small amounts when in the presence of others
- Scheduling time to binge eat when alone/hiding food
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Refusing to eat certain foods or restriction of entire categories of food
- Abdominal distress, bloating, constipation
- Feeling cold, lethargic, or even feeling an excess of energy
- Excessive and rigid exercise regimen
- Severe mood swings
- Withdrawing from friends, feeling irritable or disconnected from emotions
- Perfectionistic tendencies
- Low self-esteem/self-evaluation based upon body image
- Increase feelings of depression and/or anxiety
- For women, loss of menstruation
Eating disorders are not phases the students go through that will simply resolve on their own. They are serious illnesses that warrant professional care and attention. It is important to seek help if you suspect you have a problem with food or weight. Eating disorders can often be prevented and/or recovery outcomes are more successful if an individual seeks help in the early stages. Please contact The Counseling Center if you would like to speak with a psychologist. Appointments can be made by calling (610) 519-4050, or by stopping Room 206, Health Services Building.
HOW TO GET HELP
Free, confidential counseling is available at the University Counseling Center, 206 Health Services Building, 610-519-4050.
For informational purposes only, the University Counseling Center offers access to online, anonymous Self-Assessment Tools. These resources are provided by third-parties unaffiliated with Villanova and the results are not shared with the University. These screenings are not a substitute for a complete evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. For personal assistance, please call the Counseling Center at 610-519-4050 for an appointment.