As summer rescinds and autumn approaches, many students in the Mid-Atlantic area and elsewhere are transitioning into their first semester of college. One’s college years are often marked by jubilant events such as weekend activities to cement new friendships, campus clubs and newfound independence. However, college can also incite feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and low self-esteem. Body image issues and eating disorders are extremely prevalent in colleges and universities, leaving students vulnerable to a plethora of mental and physical health issues. Being that many individuals with eating disorders are able to maintain a healthy appearance, outsiders are often unaware of the person’s suffering and internal complications become exacerbated with the absence of professional help.
The Center for Eating Disorders (CED) at Sheppard Pratt—located in Baltimore, Maryland near Towson University—has recently announced a college outreach program which will be offering services to campuses in order to create a liaison which will provide tailored outreach, specialized support and eating disorder education to university students and staff. Jennifer Moran, Psy. D, will oversee the program and communicated with joltleft.com’s Tracy Dye through email about the program as well as facts and misconceptions about eating disorders.
Tracy Dye: In your own words, provide an overview of The Center for Eating Disorders college outreach program, the services provided, and what is hoped to be gained by the program both for eating disorder sufferers and the general college population.
Jennifer Moran: For many people who have an eating disorder, their symptoms may peak when they are in college; for many, this is the first time that they are away from home for an extended length of time and must make choices about their eating independently. At the Center we have always worked with many traditional college-aged students, as well as had outreach requests from colleges and universities. We formalized a college liaison position in an effort to better assist the schools and their students in promoting awareness of eating disorders on their campuses. One of the main goals of the program is to increase the number of outreach presentations focusing on eating disorders and body image concerns. Many students and faculty want to know how to help those that they are concerned about, while students who are struggling want to know how to get the support that they need. To that end, we are open to giving presentations to classes and student organizations, or attending campus health fairs. Additionally, many of the colleges and universities already have experienced, knowledgeable staff working in the Counseling Center or Health Center on campus. We are hoping to provide assistance to those staff by providing consultation, trainings or referral assistance for those cases that are more severe than they are able to manage on campus given their resources. Soon, we will be including a “Back to School” series on the Center for Eating Disorders blog to provide suggestions for college students who are attending school while trying to recover from their eating disorder.
TD: In your experience, what groups in college populations have you noticed to be more at-risk than other groups?
JM: Stereotypically, many people think of a young, middle to upper class female when they think of someone who has an eating disorder. In reality, eating disorders can affect anyone. People who tend to be perfectionistic or hyper-focused on achievement may be more at risk for developing an eating disorder. We also know that athletes in general and specifically those who are involved in sports that focus on individual, rather than team, performance are at a greater risk. Some International students may develop problems with their eating as they struggle with changes in their eating habits in the US compared to their habits at home; some of these students will report that their families may judge their weight changes harshly when seeing them for the first time after extended periods of time at school, which can really impact their body image and self-esteem.
Click HERE for the second part of this interview.
Special thanks to Public Relations Account Executive Ashley Boarman for coordinating the interview.