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Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons. 

As a part of nationwide screening events, Hofstra University’s Student Health and Counseling Center (SHACC) offered free confidential screenings for students on National Eating Disorder Awareness Day, Monday, Feb. 12. Counselors were available for students to express their body image concerns and offered suggestions on how to receive help.

SHACC counselors at the event described how social media plays a major role in the increasing desire to “fit in” and achieve the “perfect body.” These unrealistic expectations are prevalent amongst young adults and social media has become one of the main causes of eating disorders in this demographic.

“Developmental, emerging adults are susceptible due to a number of factors including social pressures, living away from home and unregulated eating habits on campus,” said Assistant Clinical Director Merry McVey-Noble. “There is this pressure to maintain a physical standard, especially for women.”

Although eating disorders are most commonly seen among women, McVey-Noble stressed that nearly one in four Americans diagnosed with an eating disorder are men. “Eating disorders are not gender specific. Therefore, we cannot simply ignore men because in doing so we would be neglecting a large portion of the problem,” she said.

Eating disorders can also be passed down through family members. According to the pamphlet students received while attending the event, approximately 50 to 80 percent of eating disorders are genetic and are indiscriminate of age, sex, race or class. Moreover, athletes are at high risk of anorexia or bulimia due to the pressure to maintain a healthy weight and strong body for their sport. “Essentially, no one is immune to this disorder,” McVey-Noble said.

She also brought up the “contagion effect,” a phenomenon that occurs with eating disorders in general. Oftentimes, people are influenced by the behaviors of others around them, and “college students are highly susceptible to this disorder due to their neurobiology,” McVey-Noble said. “Being around friends who struggle with body image has proven to increase their vulnerability.”

Assistant Director of Internship Education and Training Dodie Gillett encourages people to look for warning signs in their peers. If a friend constantly denies being hungry, refuses to eat in public or has lost a dramatic amount of weight, it may be necessary to offer them help.

“Express love and genuine concern for your peer,” Gillett said. The mere act of supporting an individual who is struggling may be enough for them to gain the confidence they need to seek help.

Students were asked to give advice to sufferers of this disorder. “Everyone should feel comfortable getting help because they are not alone,” said Mackenzie Orr, a sophomore film studies major. “People just want the best for each other.”

Representatives at the event explained that in relation to all psychological disorders, anorexia has the highest mortality rate.

“It’s shocking because I did not think people would take such drastic measures to fit society’s picture of perfection,” said Megan Boese, a freshman athletic training major. “It goes to show what this world’s [body] image has come to,” she said.

SHACC is always available for students to receive the help they need and start them on their road to recovery.

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