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The Problem of Anorexia Among College Students


Anorexia nervosa and eating disorders in college students and adolescents are problems that require immediate intervention. Nevertheless, these conditions still do not accumulate the much attention that they require. Since a student’s life is a very challenging and problematic period for everybody, it comes with several dangers to mental and physical health, status, and well-being in general. It may not require any effort for a student not to pay attention to their current health condition because they are too focused on coping with their educational programs. Therefore, they do not sleep, eat, and rest enough, which causes their health to suffer significantly. The most common health-related problems in students are excessive stress and eating disorders. While the first is adequately addressed and taken into account almost by every professor and counselor, the second may not be as easy to even detect. The slight decrease in body weight is not that big of a problem, but it does not require much to cross the threshold of anorexia. The importance of this issue and the factors contributing to it will be analyzed in this paper.

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Understanding the Problem

To figure out why anorexia nervosa is so common amongst students in colleges, one would have to grasp the problems causing it. Jacobson states that “the challenges of college life, adding pressure to underlying mental health issues, create … a “perfect storm” for these disorders, the most common of which are anorexia and bulimia” (para. 2). Thus, the first reason is determined – the pressure caused by the excessive amount of activities in which students are participating. The volumes of material that need to be researched, learned, and simply understood leave students with little possibility to recover their strength.

Another reason is stated by Gish; anorexia is caused by the fact that most students are used to living with the families that watch over them and make sure that their diet is sufficient and healthy (para. 4). Indeed, it does not require much for a student to “slip” when they are removed from their usual environment. Moreover, students are forced to become more independent, therefore, taking care of their diet by themselves. This may come as a very tough thing to do to some. Thus, students become responsible for choosing their food as well as cooking it. Some of them may be lazy or irresponsible which leads to selecting unhealthy products or cooking them in the wrong way. Needless to say, this lack of a familiar environment also adds strain to a student’s already overburdened consciousness resulting in more stress.

Finally, it is important to understand that most students, even when realizing that they lead an unhealthy lifestyle, refuse to seek help and treatment. Understanding Eating Disorders article provides a research consumer with five reasons which prevent students from seeking assistance (para. 10). First and foremost, they may not even realize that they have any eating disorders. Second, they probably think that their condition is untreatable. Third, some may be embarrassed about their issues so much that they will refuse to report to doctors or counselors. Fourth, a student’s financial burden may be too heavy to afford additional expenses that may be required to receive treatment. Finally, they may be worried that they will not be treated anonymously and will become ostracized in their collective.

Each of these reasons may lead to overextended hesitation to fight off the disease. Even separately from each other, these factors may become a significant obstacle to recovering and returning to a normal lifestyle. This level of danger that the problems pose requires immediate and thorough debate and consecutive actions to decrease anorexia rates in college students. Nevertheless, it is often very hard to address the issue properly with the students protecting their anonymity so eagerly. Moreover, as stated before, even their superiors often do not realize the significance of the problem or its presence in the first place. Also, some even state that the problem is not that acute at all.

Alternative Perspective

Some individuals may resort to saying that it is perfectly reasonable for a student to have a slight decrease in body weight. They may even state that the problem of anorexia in college students is greatly exaggerated, and there is no real threat. These claims often come from educators in highly recognized institutions; this determines the significantly biased nature of such statements. It is only natural for such institutions to have a lot of opportunities to support their students so that they would both have the possibility to lead a healthy lifestyle and pay the medical expenses if a problem occurs. Additionally, these institutions are often present students with several options to receive care at their campus.

Thus, the alternative perspective is often given by individuals and institutions that had already established an environment that reduces the risks of developing an eating disorder. Furthermore, the rejection of this problem is also caused by ignorance and misinformation. Therefore, denying the problem is not an option as well as accepting the position defending its absence or insignificance. Thus, the education and health care community are presented with a serious threat. However, researchers are already working on the possible solutions that may prevent eating disorders or implement innovative treatment approaches and techniques.

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Possible Solutions

First of all, the guidelines elucidating the treatment options for eating disorders already exist. These guidelines are presented, for instance, in an article by Hay et al. and consist of “specific evidence-based psychological and pharmacological treatments” (p. 2). Additionally, the authors present the research consumer with several specific care guidelines designed to provide better chances of recovery. Furthermore, these care plans make sure that the students will proceed to recover past hospital treatment and reevaluate their habits and diet plans.

Further, more recent research performed by Golden et al. provides updated data on the medical procedures required to help students with eating disorders recover and shift to a healthier lifestyle (p. 370). Also, the article provides decent coverage of the processes involved in recovery as well as possible causes beyond diet imbalance.

Finally, there is a more important factor that requires attention. This factor was mentioned in the previous part of the paper. Research by Hudson et al. confirms that the underweight problems in children and adolescents (including college students) are indeed poorly covered and not acknowledged enough (p. 309). As already stated, opposers of this problem tend to belong to educational institutions; Hudson et al., however, state that “knowledge and confidence among pediatricians in the UK on this topic anecdotally appear poor” (p. 309), which also indicates that not only educators are misinformed.

Therefore, a complex system of measures to prevent and control anorexia in college students is required. Despite the severeness of the problem, there are a significant number of opportunities that may be utilized to decrease the underweight levels in students. Needless to say, timely medical intervention is most critical. However, implementing this approach alone will result in fighting the cause instead of the reason. This means that the problem must be prevented rather than eliminated after it had established.

One of the most efficient ways to achieve the goal of preventing anorexia in college students would be to promote healthy eating habits. This may be accomplished via meetings, information distribution, proper tutoring, etc. The focus must be on calling students to not abandon their existing eating habits and improve them. Should this be achieved, the students will supposedly start paying much more attention to their diet and their health condition overall. It is important to notice that the information must be appealing to students. It must be both informative and entertaining for them to pay attention. Furthermore, it must not take too much time to deliver the message as the students tend not to have much spare time. This complex of measures will most probably establish a healthier environment in which the students will feel encouraged to manage their diet and make sure that they will not develop any eating disorders.


To summarize, the problem of anorexia in college students does not have enough coverage. Moreover, some individuals claim that the problem is non-existent. However, many researchers recognize that this is indeed a serious threat to the students’ physical and mental health and must, therefore, be monitored and negated. Timely prevention, sufficient informing, as well as proper medical treatment, will ensure that this issue will not be as severe as it is right now.

Works Cited

Gish, Claire. “College Life: How to Handle Anorexia Nervosa.” Eating Disorder Hope. Web.

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Golden, Neville et al. “Update on the Medical Management of Eating Disorders in Adolescents.” Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 56, no. 4, 2015, pp. 370-375.

Hay, Phillipa et al. “Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Eating Disorders.” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 48, no. 11, 2014, pp. 1-62.

Hudson, Lee et al. “Low Levels of Knowledge on the Assessment of Underweight in Children and Adolescents among Middle-Grade Doctors in England and Wales.” Archives of Disease in Childhood, vol. 98, no. 4, 2013, pp. 309-311.

Jacobson, Rae. “Eating Disorders and College: Why the First Years away from Home are a Perfect Storm for Anorexia and Bulimia.” Child Mind Institute. Web.

“Understanding Eating Disorders.” Addiction Center, 2016. Web.

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