College is often a time of excitement that is also tinged with anxiety. On one hand, a young person in college is usually understood to have reached the milestone of becoming an adult in the eyes of society. For the first time in many young people’s lives, they are able to make their own daily decisions away from the influence and oversight of their parents and other adults who are directly responsible for them. It is this very sense of independence and freedom, however, that also can make college a source of anxiety, depression and other challenging emotions. Without the guidance and daily oversight of an objective and loving person, many college students flounder in one way or another.

What is Binge Eating Disorder? 

According to the American Psychological Association,, there are three primary categories of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Though they are all related, the first two types — anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa — often receive the bulk of the attention from the media.

A person with anorexia nervosa look at themselves and see someone who is overweight even when they are extremely thin. In order to address this distorted body image, a person with anorexia nervosa often restricts the amount they eat while exercising compulsively.

Those people with bulimia nervosa binge eat — often in secret due to their feelings of shame and guilt. In order to relieve themselves of these feelings, a person with bulimia nervosa will purge their bodies of the binged food by using enemas, laxatives, diuretics, exercising or vomiting.

An individual who has a binge eating disorder also experiences frequent bouts of eating that they feel powerless to control — much like those with bulimia nervosa. Unlike those with bulimia nervosa, though, a person with a binge eating disorder doesn’t purge themselves of the calories they’ve consumed.

There is a fourth category of eating disorders that is known as “eating disorders not otherwise specified.” An individual might meet the criteria for this category, for example, if there are eating-related issues present, but they don’t meet the criteria for one of the three disorders outlined above.

Binge Eating Disorder and the College Student

Not surprisingly, college students as a group can experience an increase in their rates of binge eating disorder. While there is no hard and fast list of reasons why health professionals see an uptick in the numbers of college students that need binge eating disorder treatment, the following are common ones:

  1. Loss of Support

While many young people struggle against the rules and restrictions that parents place on them — especially as they grow into teenagers and strive for more independence — these parental expectations were also a framework of support as well. Going off to college might mean that a young adult is still reliant on hers or his parents’ financial support, but the support necessary to get through the day is no longer in place.

  1. Decreased Structure

From the time a child is small, there is typically a certain level of structure within any household. It’s within this structured framework that parents and children were able to get out of the house every day so they can make it to work and school on time. Meals were on a structured timeline to allow room for after-school activities, homework and showers before bed.

A college student often is experiencing her or his first time at setting up their own structure. What makes doing so even more of a challenge is that the institution of a college campus is typically far different than that of a family. Without that structure in place — and at a loss of how to effectively implement one — a college student might find themselves floundering to get to class on time or to find enough time to study. There might also be issues with getting to the cafeteria on time for meals that can lead to binge eating on whatever can be found.

  1. Loneliness

Many college students are excited about attending college because it gives them the opportunity to socialize with an expanded pool of possible friends. This same giant list of potential friends, however, can be overwhelming to get to know. Even a young adult who was previously at home and outgoing in their high school could find themselves challenged to make relevant friends in the oversized world of a college campus.

  1. Uncertainty about the Future

For many young adults, heading to college is not without its uncertainties about the future. For one thing, the real world of adulthood is that much closer than it was just a year or two ago. Many college students are expected to be ready to join the job market with everything they need in place in about four years or even less.

Another aspect of uncertainty that can hit college students is the fact that they might not know what they really want to do in their lives. The prospect of having to make a decision regarding their schooling that can affect their lives — for better or for worse — when they are just gaining a semblance of independence can be daunting.

A third source of uncertainty can exist in those students who are the first in their families to go to college. Not knowing if they belong there — or feeling like they don’t — and a fear of letting others down can feed a sense of uncertainty that can dog a college student during their entire school career.

  1. Rigorous Course Requirements

Regardless of the quality of education that a student received in high school, it’s very likely that the courses they face in college will be more demanding than what they are used to. While some college students find themselves thriving on the challenges this brings to their lives, many more struggle under the weight of such demands. When coupled with the more independent nature of college and the daunting environment that might be present among professors and students, young adults could find it difficult to reach out for the help they need in the classes where they are struggling.

  1. Internal or External Pressures

A family who has a great deal wrapped up in their child’s college career often puts a lot of external pressure on the college student. In many cases, this pressure is not intentional while other families have parents who are living their own dreams through the actions of their children.

A college student who is the first in her or his family to attend college often feels a great deal of pressure to succeed. Scholarship winners and those students whose families sacrificed a great deal for them to attend college also might face a great deal of pressure — either from themselves or their loved ones.

  1. Sports Expectations

Whether a college student is attending an institution on a sports scholarship or they simply want to join a team, the expectations that often exist within the sector of college life can make it for them to have a binge eating disorder. Strict diets and sports that put a premium on thinness or maintaining a certain weight could cause a student to become stressed so they eat uncontrollably after denying their body of the calories and nutrients it needs for so long.

  1. Prior Binge Eating Disorder

A college student who is in recovery from a binge eating disorder — or one who had a binge eating disorder in the past — could find it difficult to follow the necessary protocols to continue in their recovery. While not inevitable, of course, the potential for a college student with a previous binge eating disorder to relapse can be high.

  1. Tough Exam Schedules

College students have a reputation for staying up all night long and studying before binge eating and crashing for a few hours before doing it all again. This cycle can come about because of the stringent requirements that a college curriculum places on its students. Another potential cause for such behavior is the inability of the student to effectively balance their social life along with their classes and the necessary study time they need to put in outside of the classroom. This can lead to college students skipping meals and then binge eating to make up for it later on.

  1. It’s Expected

Out-of-control behavior is often seen as accepted — or even expected — within college students. Whether this comes in the form of binge drinking or binge eating, there is a certain expectation that college students will take advantage of this time period in their lives and do things to the excess. This mindset can not only make it easier to turn to binge eating as a way to cope with the various aspects of college life, it can also make it more difficult for those around a college student with a binge eating disorder to realize there is a problem.

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

Like the other two primary eating disorders — anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa — it can be difficult for a college student to realize that he or she has a binge eating disorder in part because bingeing behaviors are so integrated into the college experience. In reality, though, binge eating disorder is common with as many as 40 percent of people who are currently trying to lose weight as actually suffering from binge eating disorder. Also sometimes known as compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder treatment can successfully address the issues that lie behind this disorder.

Though there is a continued stigma in the United States against people who are overweight, times are changing as scientists gain a better understanding of the underlying issues. According to the DSM-5, binge eating disorder is now recognized as a serious medical condition that requires specialized treatment and binge eating disorder counseling. The right binge eating therapy that is presented by recovered staff who follow a truth without judgment tone is the ideal method of binge eating treatment.

Eating Disorder Recovery is Possible — and Important

A college student who has binge eating disorder is at risk for numerous medical conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. The right binge eating treatment centers place a high priority on maintaining a “people first, therapist second” mentality. Because low self-esteem is often present in those college students who have binge eating disorder, a focus on a healthy self as part of being fully recovered is vital for the health of the college student.

College students who find themselves binge eating at least once a week for three months or longer, who cannot control what they eat or stop eating and who eat a larger portion of food than is considered to be normal during a two-hour period of time meet the DSM-5 criteria for binge eating disorder. As such, they should reach out for help from a binge eating treatment center.

What Is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that can cause extreme problems if not addressed. The disorder is characterized by a significantly smaller BMI than should be maintained for an individual’s height and weight. To gain a proper diagnosis, a doctor will need to not only look at an individual’s BMI but also examine their eating habits, exercise schedules, and personality traits before arriving at a diagnosis. It is important to remember that anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder that may affect those who are diagnosed with it by providing them with a distorted body image that causes them to see themselves as significantly heavier than they appear to others.

What Is the Difference Between Dieting and Anorexia Nervosa?

Many times, people may confuse extreme diets with the condition anorexia nervosa due to the similarity in restrictive eating patterns. In truth, there are major differences between the two. When one diets, they are simply trying to control and reduce their weight. In the case of anorexia nervosa, the person is often trying to get control in their life either due to inherent genetic predisposition, psychological issues, or as a way to deal with trauma. Those with the eating disorder will begin to equate weight loss with happiness because it puts them back in control. Another stark difference between the two is the fact that while some diets may not be completely healthy, they will not come with the potential severe sides effects that can occur with anorexia nervosa.

Are There Types of Anorexia Nervosa?

When diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, the condition will most likely be classified into one of two types that the disorder can take.

  • Restrictive – When someone has restrictive anorexia nervosa they are often highly disciplined at reducing the amount of food and calories they consume to control their weight loss. They will often avoid all foods that are high in fat or high in sugar and will consume far fewer calories than they need to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Binge/Purge – Binge/purge anorexia nervosa will combine restrictive eating with purging when eating does occur. When someone with anorexia nervosa consumes something that is either part of their diet restriction or is considered excessive, they will find ways to try to the purge the calories they consumed through vomiting, excessive exercising, or regularly taking laxatives.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms That Someone May Struggle with the Anorexia?

When determining whether or not someone may need to seek out eating disorder treatment, it is best to look at the overall signs and symptoms that can occur when someone is battling anorexia nervosa. Some of the common signs and symptoms that can be found with anorexia nervosa include:

  • Excessive dieting that restricts food intake to below the norm
  • Rapid weight loss and maintaining a BMI that is severely underweight
  • Obsessive calorie counting and food content checking
  • Having specific eating habits like eating food in small pieces or eating alone
  • The absence of menstruation due to fat loss often referred to as amenorrhea
  • Lethargy or overall lack of energy
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Development of fine hairs on the face and the body
  • Constantly being cold especially on fingers and toes
  • Loss of hair
  • Isolation and withdrawal from activities

What Are Some of the Causes of Anorexia Nervosa?

While the primary causes of anorexia nervosa are not known many doctors believe that it is a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors that can lead to the occurrence of the disorder. Some of the things found to be linked to developing anorexia nervosa are:

  • Having a parent or sibling with an eating disorder
  • Being a perfectionist or overachiever
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality traits
  • High levels of anxiety
  • The modern obsession with thinness and its equation with success and happiness

What Demographic Is Most Likely to Develop the Disorder?

While there is no set type of person that is affected by anorexia nervosa many people who seek eating disorder treatment will fall into these demographic categories.

  • Women – Eating disorders in women is more common overall than men, with 0.9% of the female population battling with anorexia nervosa at least once in their lifetime.
  • Athletes – Due to the restrictions to body weight and size for the performance of many athletic activities, athletes are more likely to suffer from anorexia nervosa in an attempt to control their body weight to excel at their chosen activity.
  • Teens – While anorexia nervosa can occur at any age, those seeking eating disorder treatment for the condition are most often teenagers. This has been attributed to their changing body as well as social and peer pressure they may experience.
  • Those with diagnosed mood disorders – Between 33% and 50% of all patients entering eating disorder treatment centers will have also been diagnosed with a mood disorder such as depression. This is typically more common for those who have binge/purge anorexia disorder.
  • Those diagnosed with anxiety disorders – Almost half of the patients who have gone through eating disorder recovery have a coexisting anxiety disorder such as social phobia or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What Complications May One Experience as a Result of the Condition?

Anorexia nervosa is often recommended to be treated in an eating disorder treatment center due to the severe complications that can occur if eating disorder recovery is not sought. Most of the difficulties are caused by the body not receiving the nutrients it needs to be able to function in a normal way. As a response to lack of nutrition, the body may begin to slow necessary processes in an attempt to conserve energy. Anorexia nervosa can affect a number of the major body systems including:

Cardiovascular System

  • When a person’s body is starving, their body will begin to break down tissue to be able to use for fuel. Muscles are the first organs to begin to break down and the heart is the most vital muscle in the body. When the heart’s ability to pump begins to decrease it will drop blood pressure and increase heart rate, increasing the –risk of heart failure.
  • Purging techniques through the use of laxative and vomiting will deplete your body of electrolytes that are important to maintain heart rate. Additionally, excessive water intake for dieting can also cause electrolyte imbalances which can cause an irregular heartbeat and lead to heart failure.
  • When the body begins to conserve energy, the resting metabolic rate will be lowered.

Gastrointestinal System

  • Gastroparesis, also known as slowed digestion, can occur when restriction of food and purging begins to interfere with the digestion of nutrients and the stomach emptying process. The slowing of digestion can lead to stomach pain, nausea, blood sugar fluctuations, intestinal blockages, and bacterial infections.
  • Severe constipation can also occur when there is an inadequate nutritional intake as the body is not sensing enough food to attempt to eliminate it. Additionally, depleted nutrients can weaken the muscles that are in the intestines preventing them from having the strength to push waste out of the body.
  • The lining of the esophagus can wear down and even rupture due to the acid produced by severe vomiting.
  • Pancreatitis can occur both as a result of inadequate nutrition as well as purging
  • Blockages from being unable to completely void the bowels can lead to intestinal obstruction, infections, and perforations which can be life-threatening when they occur.

Neurological System

  • Even though the brain is a small organ, it requires one-fifth of the calories the body takes in to be able to function correctly. When someone excessively diets, fasts, or starves the body, the brain is deprived of the calories it needs which can lead to food obsession and concentration difficulties.
  • When the body is extremely hungry, it can cause problems with staying asleep or even getting to sleep.
  • The intake of fat is required to maintain the protective and insulating layer that protects the brain and allows it to conduct electricity. When this occurs, a person may experience numbness, especially in the body’s extremities.
  • Severe dehydration and imbalances in the electrolytes in the brain can result in muscle cramping and seizures.
  • When the body slows down, there may be less blood being pushed to the brain which can lead to dizziness and fainting spells

Endocrine System

  • Necessary hormones in the body are gained by the consumption of cholesterol and fat. When fat and calorie intake falls, it can lead to a drop in sex and thyroid hormones. Eating disorders in women can lead to such side effects as bone loss, and the loss of menstruation.
  • When the body is lacking the energy it needs to ignite its metabolic fire, there can be a drop in temperature that can lead to hypothermia.

Other Complications

  • Lack of fat consumption can cause skin and hair to dry out, become brittle, and break.
  • Severe malnutrition and dehydration can lead to kidney failure.
  • Lack of proper nutrition can lower the number of certain types of blood cells.
  • Lack of iron can lead to anemia which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and weakness.

How Does Anorexia Nervosa Affect Patients Socially?

When considering whether or not to seek out treatment options for eating disorders, it is important to consider the way anorexia nervosa not only affects someone physically but socially as well. Research shows that those who battle eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa will be more physically inhibited and as a result be more isolated in their lives.  There are many ways in which anorexia nervosa can lead to social issues.

  • Someone with anorexia nervosa may feel uncomfortable eating around others due to food rituals or comments about the amount of food they eat.
  • Lack of energy that can come from anorexia nervosa leads to focusing on surviving and preserving energy to get through necessary daily activities which causes external relationships to be of less importance.
  • Neurological changes that can occur from the condition can cause problems with social interactions.
  • They may avoid social situations due to feelings about their body or size.
  • Impaired perception of social cues can occur when the body is undergoing the stress of starvation.

What Kinds of Treatment Are Effective for Anorexia Nervosa?

Whether you seek out outpatient eating disorder treatment, eating disorder counseling, or inpatient treatment at an eating disorder facility, getting help is a vital part of achieving and maintaining eating disorder recovery. Treatment for anorexia nervosa at an eating disorder treatment center will often encompass a multi-disciplinary approach to make sure that the patient is treated for their current emotional and physical needs as well as treatment to address any underlying or co-occurring conditions. Both inpatient treatment options for eating disorders and outpatient eating disorder treatment will involve a combination of medical, nutritional, and therapy components.

  • Medical – One of the highest priorities for the treatment of anorexia nervosa is to address the physical and medical issues that have arisen from the lack of nutrition and body deprivation.
  • Nutrition – At Monte Nido’s eating disorder facilities we incorporate a comprehensive program geared to restoring the weight as well as setting up a plan to maintain a healthier relationship with food and eating.
  • Therapy – Eating disorder counseling is an essential treatment option for eating disorders to be able to address the underlying causes of the eating disorder which can provide them with better-coping skills and allow them to deal with any underlying trauma that may have added to the development of the disorder.

Can Anorexia Nervosa Be Cured Without Treatment?

Due to the severe physical strain that anorexia nervosa can put on the body getting inpatient or outpatient eating disorder treatment at a certified eating disorder facility is vital to not only address and reverse the physical consequences form anorexia nervosa but also aid the patient in finding the underlying cause and ways to prevent relapses in the future.


Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and accepting of the present experience. No matter the moment pleasant or unpleasant, we must accept the present moment for what it is. At Oliver-Pyatt Centers, mindfulness is incorporated into the core philosophy of our nutritional treatment programs. Those who are battling an eating disorder are given the opportunity to transform their eating habits with a personalized, nutrition plan.

OPC incorporates mindful eating practices into treatment programs to help individuals change their previous disordered eating habits. A team of highly qualified nutritionists and clinicians help individuals achieve their full potential of intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is a process that is greatly influenced by the concept of mindfulness. Treatment at OPC guides this process through educating and supporting individuals through 10 eating principles.

Internally Directed Eating Guided by 10 Principles:

Unconditional permission to eat & rest

Reject the diet mentality

Honor your body

Make peace with food & movement

Challenge the food & body police

Respect physical sensations

Discover the satisfaction factor

Honor your feelings

Honor your health

Exercise – feel the difference


While emphasizing these guidelines in treatment is beneficial, there is a more comprehensive treatment plan put into place in order to bridge the gap between disordered and intuitive eating.


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 855.254.5642visit our website, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

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