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Wayne State College
Counseling Center
Student Center, Rm. 103
1111 Main St.
Wayne, NE 68787

Phone: 402.375.7321
Fax: 402.375.7058



Related Services  > Eating Disorders > College Students


Eating Disorders Links: | Signs and Symptoms | Relapse Warning |
| Causes| College Students | Definitions | Athletes | Getting Help |
| Self Test | Helicopter Story |


Eating disorders affect people of all ages, but are especially prominent among college students. Body dissatisfaction, particularly regarding size and weight, is a common attribute found in the college-age population and body size dissatisfaction and disordered eating appear to be widespread, particularly among young women.

Body image refers to our perceptions of our own physical appearance, or our internal sense of having a body which is constructed by the brain. A person's body image (perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes) is how they perceive their exterior to look, and in many cases this can be dramatically different to how they actually appear to others.


Body image is:

  • How you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.
  • What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
  • How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
  • How you sense and control your body as you move. How you feel in your body, not just about your body.

A negative/positive body image can influence eating behaviors.


Negative body image is . . .

  • A distorted perception of your shape--you perceive parts of your body unlike they really are.
  • You are convinced that only other people are attractive and that your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure.
  • You feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body.
  • You feel uncomfortable and awkward in your body.

Positive body image is . . .

  • A clear, true perception of your shape--you see the various parts of your body as they really are.
  • You celebrate and appreciate your natural body shape and you understand that a person`s physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person.
  • You feel proud and accepting of your unique body and refuse to spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight, and calories.
  • You feel comfortable and confident in your body.

People with negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss.


The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) ran a poll on college campuses across the nation in 2006. NEDA polled 1,002 students (both male and female undergraduate and graduate students of various ethnicities ) on private and public campuses, asking about their general knowledge of eating disorders; how many of their peers they know are battling the illness; the causes of eating disorders; and actions they may have taken to help those afflicted, among other topics.


Nearly 20% of respondents believed that at some point they had suffered from an eating disorder, versus available research that has demonstrated lifetime prevalence rates between .05-4%. Among those who said they have had one or still suffer from an eating disorder, nearly 75% of that group never received treatment.


Of those polled 36.5% were men and 63.5% were women, from freshman through graduate and post baccalaureate. Ethnically, 78.9% were Caucasian; 7.6% African- American; 8.2% Asian; and 7.2% Hispanic.



Occurrence of eating disorders on campus:

  • More than half of those polled (55.3%) said they know at least one person who has struggled with an eating disorder and have at least taken the initiative to speak to them about it (57.6%).
  • Only 37.8% felt their lives were not personally impacted by an eating disorder. Of the 19.6% who admit to having personally had an eating disorder at some time, nearly 75% of those had never received or sought treatment.
  • Students who have dieted and avoided or skipped meals (80.9% and 74.7%, respectively).
  • Students who know someone who compulsively exercises more than two hours at a time, more days of the week than not (44.4%), purges by vomiting (38.8%); uses laxatives to lose weight (26%).

General awareness of eating disorders:

  • Of the respondents, 25.2% were familiar with anorexia; 22.9% with bulimia; 15.4% with binge eating disorder; 7.9% with compulsive exercise bulimia and 62.4% with all of the above. Only 10.9% selected “none of the above.”
  • A majority of respondents believe eating disorders will lead to major lifelong health problems and serious or fatal health issues (83% and 82.5%, respectively).

Among the common pressures believed by respondents to cause the onset of eating disorders:

  • Cultural pressures to be thin (57.3%)
  • Stress from family and life in general (40.3% and 46.2%, respectively)
  • Personal choice (39%)
  • Mental illness (35.4%)
  • History of trauma (17.9%)
  • Genetics (17.6%)


  • As many as 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. are battling eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Millions more suffer from binge eating disorder.
  • The peak onset of eating disorders occurs during puberty and the late teen/early adult years, but symptoms can occur as young as kindergarten.
  • More than one in three “normal dieters” progresses to pathological dieting.
  • Eating disorders affect people from all walks of life, including young children, middle-aged women, men and individuals of all races and ethnicities.
  • Long-term physical health implications of eating disorders include heart failure, kidney damage, esophagus, colon and intestinal problems, osteoporosis, tooth decay and hair loss.
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • Although eating disorders are potentially lethal, they are treatable.

What can you do about eating disorders?

If after going through the information on this website and you are concerned about yourself, be open to getting help. Eating disorders are a serious problem and are best handled with professional help. Think about it this way. If you had a broken arm, would you go see a doctor? Of course you would. Eating disorders are no different, except that they are more dangerous if left untreated.


If after going through the information on this website you are concerned about a friend, express your concern, but don’t try to fix the problem. Be supportive and willing to listen and encourage him/her to seek help with the Counseling Center. Eating disorders may be related to a variety of issues that require professional help. Encourage your friend to get professional help. If they refuse, share the problem with someone— a counselor, an RD, or someone else positioned to offer support and help.



The WSC Counseling Center is located in the Student Center, Room 103. Please make an appointment by calling (402) 375-7321.




© 2005 National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Permission is granted to copy and reprint materials for educational purposes only. National Eating Disorders Association must be cited and web address listed. - Information and Referral Helpline: 800.931.2237



Ron Vick, MA, LPC
Counselor / Academic Advisor
Int'l Student Advisor




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