Calling attention to eating disorders

While National Eating Disorder Month was in February, that doesn’t mean the conversation stops here.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website, at least 30 million Americans will battle with an eating disorder. That number will only increase for those who deal with eating or body image issues as a whole.

This number is not secluded to those in St. Cloud State University. College students are more prone to eating disorders because of the sudden control they have over their diets. It is an issue that is often flown under the radar and goes unnoticed by many.

I had the opportunity to speak with Zia Matti, the co-president of an organization called Active Minds. This organization is focused on calling attention to mental illness on campus and what we can do to educate others on the subject. For this week, however, they are focusing on eating disorders and how that affects students here at the university. Matti feels that college students are often overlooked on the issue and really wants to explain that it’s important to give them support as well.

“I know a lot of college students go through new stresses. A coping mechanism is to turn to an eating disorder because that is one thing students can control in their new environment. This is a very prevalent issue and that’s why we [as students] need to bring awareness about it and how to help others if they see someone else going through this as well.”

A student here at SCSU, freshman McKenna Klaphake also comments on how it’s important to help others, even if it doesn’t seem urgent, “It’s important to bring awareness because not a lot of people are diagnosed, but it’s still important to support people who are going through such difficult times in their lives.”

It is often stereotyped girls and women are the only ones facing this issue. However, the truth is it even affects men as well.  NEDA states over 25 percent of men on college campuses struggle with some type of eating disorder.

Matti, mentioned once more on how this is just as much of an issue, “It is more prevalent among women, but men see it just as much too. A lot of times they’ll see it as a way to bulk up or get more muscular. It’s more of an identifying issue with body dysmorphia.”

Body Dysmorphia Disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance. They also said this disorder affects about 1 in 50 people in the general population and is the gateway to most eating disorders in the United States.

So, with all of the information available about eating disorders, how can we help?

According to NEDA in a recent study, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate than any other illness for college students. This is why recognizing the signs early on could save someone’s life (or yours).

NEDA recommends that if you see someone going through an eating or body image issue than it’ important to do take the following steps:

  1. Speak to them calmly and respectfully about what they may be going through.
  2. Do not keep this a secret. Seek another trusted friend or supervisor to help them gather the resources they may need to help them.
  3. Share specifically with your friend what makes you concerned about their health, and offer to help. Try not to make this confrontational, but rather supportive.

If you find yourself with an eating or body image disorder it’s important to seek help from the resources around you. This may be talking to a close and trusted friend or reaching out to Counseling and Psychological Services on campus.

What also may be useful is the 24/7 hotline from NEDA that is available to talk at any time to support eating disorder issues. The number is 1 (800)-931-2237.


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Bethanie Barrios

Bethanie is a junior at St. Cloud State and is a mathematics education major with minors in mass communications and special education. This year, she is the Managing Editor for the University Chronicle, a director for in house productions at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and a math tutor. She enjoys writing, rock concerts, and serving her community and fellow students.

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