Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or sex. Recent studies suggest that 1 in 5 college women struggle with an eating disorder. Although eating disorders are more common in females, researchers and clinicians are
becoming aware of a growing number of males and non-binary individuals who are seeking help for eating disorders. A 2007 study by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention found that up to one-third of all eating disorder sufferers
are male, and a 2015 study of US undergraduates found that transgender students were
the group most likely to have been diagnosed with an eating disorder in the past year
(Diemer, 2015). It is currently not clear whether eating disorders are actually increasing
in males and transgender populations or if more of those individuals who are suffering
are seeking treatment or being diagnosed.
Signs of eating disorders include: preoccupation with food and thinness, excessive
exercise, refusal to eat, noticeable and extreme weight loss, food rituals, depressed
mood, withdrawal from friends, low self-esteem, and negative body image.
While no one knows for sure what causes eating disorders, a growing consensus suggests
that it is a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. These
factors may interact differently in different people, so two people with the same
eating disorder can have very diverse perspectives, experiences, and symptoms.
It’s important to remember that biology isn’t destiny. There is always hope for recovery.
Although biological factors play a large role in the onset of eating disorders, they
are not the only factors. The predisposition towards disordered eating may reappear
during times of stress, but there are many good techniques individuals with eating
disorders can learn to help manage their emotions and keep behaviors from returning.
Early intervention is a key part of eating disorder prevention, and helps reduce serious psychological and health consequences. Recovery from an
eating disorder can be a long process and requires a qualified team of professionals
and the love and support of family and friends.
Recovery time varies from person to person. Some people get better relatively quickly,
while others take longer to improve. Although not everyone with an eating disorder
will recover fully, many do improve with treatment. Even with full recovery, many
people with eating disorders find that they have to take steps to make sure they stay
well. This can include planning meals; regular check-ins with a therapist, dietitian,
or doctor; medication; and/or other types of self-care.
Common Eating Disorders
Involves an attempt to control ones weight by restricting the amount of food eaten. Anorexia tends to begin during high school or college with an attempt to "lose a
few pounds” which then may lead to a tremendous fear of becoming fat. Individuals
struggling with anorexia may lose their menstrual periods, feel physically cold often,
suffer from dry skin and hair, low blood pressure, and experience heart difficulties.
Concentration can become diminished, impacting a student’s ability to learn and do
well in classes. The malnourishment associated with anorexia may lead to death.
Involves a cycle of uncontrolled eating, or "binging", followed by purging behaviors. Purging behaviors may include vomiting, the use of laxatives, and excessive exercise.
The physical effects of bulimia can be quite serious including damage to tooth enamel,
stomach, esophagus, kidney problems, and seizures. Electrolyte imbalances can result
in sudden cardiac failure and death.
Binge Eating Disorder
A condition in which people binge on large numbers of calories at one time, but do
not purge. Compulsive overeaters feel out of control with their eating habits, and may suffer
from low self-esteem and body image. They may eat when they feel stressed, or may
binge after attempting to eat normally for a period of time. Because of the secretive
nature of their eating, compulsive overeaters often feel isolated, but they may fear
being ostracized if others were to find out.
What is body image?
Body image is how an individual perceives, feels and experiences her or his body.
It involves how you think and feel about your appearance and what it is like to live
in your body.
Body image exists on a continuum with individuals who largely feel positively about
their body at one end of the continuum. These individuals do not tie their self esteem
to their pant size or whether they are perceived attractive by others. They base their
self esteem on a variety of factors.
At the other end of the continuum are those individuals who feel very negatively about
their body the majority of the time, experiencing shame related to their appearance.
These individuals are more likely to tie their self worth to their body shape and
level of attractiveness. People with negative body image are more likely to develop
How many people struggle with their body image?
It is estimated that around 80% of all women struggle with their body image. It is also believed that an increasing number of men feel negatively about their
bodies. An individual’s body image is impacted by many factors including one’s overall
self esteem, relationships and exposure to the media.
How do I get help for myself or for a friend?
It can be worrisome to believe that a friend, roommate or loved one may be experiencing
an eating disorder. It is important to speak with the student about your concerns
in order to offer support and let the student know that you care. The attached are
some suggestions for beginning a conversation.
There are many ways to improve one’s body image. One strategy is to seek out individual and/or group counseling. Here are some other helpful suggestions to improve your body image.
- Counseling Center: The Center offers a variety of services for students experiencing eating and body
image image issues. Services including assessment and referral, individual and group
counseling, Student Bodies, and workshops. 410-704-2512
- Health Center: Providers at the Health Center provide medical services including eating disorder
physicals. Nutrition assessments are also available. 410-704-2466
- On and Off Campus Referrals
Further Information on Eating Disorders & Body Images
Free Area Services
- ANAD Free Eating Disorder Support Group: Mondays 5:30-6:45 p.m.
- Ascension Lutheran Church, 7601 York Road, Towson, MD; 410-337-7772
- Sheppard Pratt Free Eating Disorders Support Group: Wednesdays 7-8:30 p.m.
- Sheppard Pratt Hospital Gibson Building, Room 200, 6501 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD; 410-938-5252
- Largely Positive Support Group: Free Support Group for People of Size: 2nd & 4th Tuesdays 7-8:30 p.m. 10621 York Road,
Cockeysville, MD; 410-982-9667
- Love Your Tree
- Body Image Confessions
- Love Your Body Week
- Nation Eating Disorder Awareness Week