Anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by an individual restricting their diet because of an intense fear of gaining weight. This fear of gaining weight is usually founded in personal insecurities, and not necessarily a vain attempt to be thin. Anorexic individuals restrict their energy intake, relative to their individual requirements, which leads to significantly low body weight. They will continue to take weight loss measures, such as excessive exercise or laxative use, even though they are at a significantly low weight already. Anorexia also involves a skewed vision of the individual’s body, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or a consistent lack of recognition of seriousness of current low body weight. About 0.3-0.4% of women and 0.1% of men in America have anorexia. Treatment consists primarily of psychotherapy, though medications can be used to treat underlying conditions such as depression. If not treated, anorexia can lead to anemia, heart problems, bone loss, gastrointestinal problems, kidney problems, death, and other issues.
Anorexia tends to take over the individual’s life. And stressful life events can trigger disordered eating, so college is no exception. College is used as an excuse. “I didn’t have time to eat.” “I could only grab something small on the go.” Drowning in responsibilities can be an excellent reason not to eat properly or at all. But it can also lead to avoiding going out with friends, especially when social interactions in college frequently surround a meal. If the individual ends up participating in meals with friends, they spend their time counting calories, hiding food, and worrying about weight gain rather than enjoying the experience. Functioning is possible, as this does not directly interfere with the ability to finish assignments, study, or get to class. However, anorexia is not sustainable considering other health problems that develop and thought patterns that are self-destructive. Other mental illnesses may occur along with anorexia, and those also need to be treated in tandem. Psychiatric services and counseling support may be helpful throughout this process. In some cases, taking a semester off to visit a treatment facility can do more for the individual than traditional counseling. It is possible to reach remission and return to normal college life.