More students than may be expected struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, on a day-to-day basis.
Not many Temple students consider that some of their classmates may be suffering with a disorder that’s taking over their lives.
A Temple student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been personally affected by anorexia nervosa since the age of 13. Since then, she said she has gained some control over the disorder, but it still haunts her.
“Though I have a better understanding of my situation, I will always have my disorder. It never goes away completely,” the student said. “It may never be as severe as it once was, but it will always be lurking in the back shadows waiting to explode again.”
Coming in contact with those who suffer from such conditions can be quite surprising for some, but the disorder is very real. The problems exist, and it’s important to be informed on the issues at hand and how some are truly suffering.
“If anything, I lost seven years of my life because of my anorexia. I will never get those years back. I have suffered many medical conditions, many physical, mental and psychological conditions as well,” the student said.
“Some of those conditions I will have to live with for the rest of my life. Eating disorders are not worth it,” she added. “They only take away from you, and do not give you anything in return.”
Though the common eating disorder that comes to mind is anorexia, there are others, including bulimia and overeating.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which the teen, male or female, “typically [acts like] a perfectionist and a high achiever in school. At the same time, [he or] she suffers from low self-esteem, irrationally believing she is fat regardless of how thin she becomes,” according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
A person diagnosed with bulimia usually deals with symptoms different from those of anorexia nervosa.
“The patient binges on huge quantities of high-caloric food and/or purges her body of dreaded calories by self-induced vomiting and often by using laxatives. These binges may alternate with severe diets, resulting in dramatic weight fluctuations,” the AACAP adds.
Both disorders put the teens at risk for physical health problems, including dehydration, hormonal imbalance, the depletion of important minerals and damage to vital organs.
What to Look Out For
Eating disorders of any sort are psychological disorders. They are conditions that go beyond out-of-control dieting or overeating. Diet changes often spur the idea to lose weight or, in some cases, gain weight. Eventually, it takes over the person’s life and transforms into a feeling or mastery and control. The use of diet pills, diuretics, laxatives, et cetera forms an obsession and, in some ways, an addiction.
Genetics or Learned Behavior?
Some say genetics or inherited components play a significant role in a person’s susceptibility to having an eating disorder. Pressures and forms of abuse at home can lead young adults to have poor self-images and feel high levels of negative and depressive emotions.
The social aspects of one’s environment and influences greatly affect the ability for one to develop a strong sense of self and be happy in his or her skin. The media today has a lot to do with this component.
The way we view celebrities and models in magazines, on TV or on the Internet is quite powerful. These images have a hidden control over each of us that some don’t realize. It’s not common to find an average-sized model featured on the front cover of a magazine. There’s this constant pressure to fit the mold of thinness and beauty, but when is the media going to begin promoting a healthy body image rather than pushing young adults into a destructive lifestyle?
Not all celebrities take action toward telling the truths about eating disorders. They are role models for the youth of today and should be informing viewers about the risks of death, as well as positively informing them about loving one’s body the way it is.
So what’s the best way to cope with an eating disorder? Research shows that early identification and treatment leads to more favorable outcomes.
According to the AACAP, it is believed that “with comprehensive treatment, most teenagers can be relieved of the symptoms or helped to control eating disorders. Treatment for eating disorders usually requires a team approach; including individual therapy, family therapy, working with a primary care physician, working with a nutritionist, and medication. Many adolescents also suffer from other problems; including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. It is important to recognize and get appropriate treatment for these problems as well.”
With awareness about the issues and understanding of the disorders, young adults can steer clear of the dangers that the need for perfection holds.
Monica Sellecchia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.