School to college transition can trigger eating disorders in young adults

Research shows that the transition to college, with its inherent pressures and changes, can increase the likelihood of eating disorders in young adults. While college students are empowered with newfound independence, this freedom can also trigger unhealthy and dangerous behaviors.

In the past year, Eating Recovery Center (www.EatingRecoveryCenter.com), a behavioral hospital providing comprehensive and sustainable treatment of eating disorders, has seen an influx of patients for whom "college triggers" have contributed to the development of an eating disorder.

"Eating disorders are not a disorder of choice, but rather a genetic predisposition that can be triggered by any number of life-changing events," explains Kenneth L. Weiner, MD, CEDS, co-founder and medical director of Eating Recovery Center, an eating disorder center in Denver. "The increased risk of developing an eating disorder in college is largely due to the lack of predictability in a new environment and different social codes of conduct."

"College triggers" include the following:

-- Academic stress: New classes, demanding professors and higher expectations can create an intense level of academic pressure. These high standards can lead students to dangerous coping mechanisms, such as restricting food intake, binge/purge behaviors and extreme exercise.

-- Athletic performance: For student-athletes, demands for performance may lead to perfectionism in many areas, including body image. Athletes who compete in sports in which lean body weight is a factor in performance are particularly vulnerable to developing an eating disorder.

-- Fighting the "freshman 15": In an effort to fight off the dreaded "freshman 15," students' anxiety about gaining weight can lead to disordered eating.

-- Binge drinking: Binge drinking has long been a concern on college campuses. Today, this concern is compounded by the fact that college students increasingly replace food calories with alcohol calories. This behavior, dubbed "drunkorexia," has led to an increase in college students eating less and drinking more in an effort to maintain the same number of calories overall.

"To minimize the risk of developing an eating disorder, college students should be aware of triggers and warning signs, seek healthy coping mechanisms and lean on friends and family for support," explains Weiner.

If an eating disorder escalates, a variety of treatment centers across the country offer different specializations and treatment options, as well as the ability to treat patients requiring different levels of care.

SOURCE: Eating Recovery Centre

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