“This is something that is going to cut across years in terms of the college student population, it’s going to cut across gender, and it’s going to cut across race and ethnicity. This is something everybody is susceptible to.”
Michelle Holmberg, the director of programs from Screening for Mental Health, said anyone can be at risk for an eating disorder.
“In fact, some of the other data tells us that 91 percent of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting,” Holmberg said. “And then 25 percent of college-aged women engaged in binging and purging as a weight-management technique.”
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is this week, and Ohio State has its own plans to raise awareness. The rate of eating disorders among college students has risen to 10-20 percent of women, and four to 10 percent of men, according to a 2013 survey by the National Eating Disorders Association that took data collected from 165 colleges and universities in the U.S.
OSU’s Body Image and Health Task Force is a group of faculty, staff and students that holds an annual Body Image Bazaar to raise awareness for the issue. This year, the event will be held throughout the RPAC on Monday from noon to 7:30 p.m.
“The goal of the task force is to raise awareness of body image, and healthy behaviors, and to really increase healthy behaviors on campus, and decrease risky behaviors such as eating disorders, unhealthy exercise, or unhealthy focusing on the body as the sole determinant of worth,” said Nancy Rudd, a professor in the Department of Human Sciences and chair of the task force.
On the lower level of the RPAC, students can view educational boards that assess body image among several different perspectives, including the media impact on body image, how body image translates into behaviors, self-assessments on body image and discussions about cosmetic surgery, Rudd said.
“The statistics are that 95 percent of women are dissatisfied with their body. For men, it’s less than that, but it’s still pretty disconcerting, it’s between 33 percent and 45 percent,” Rudd said. “That dissatisfaction manifests itself in so many different ways. When you’re dissatisfied with your body, you’re usually trying to change it in some sort of way. Often times, those ways are not really positive, and they’re not healthy.”
The event includes two demonstrations. The first one is concerning healthy weight training and exercise, scheduled to take place from 3 to 5 p.m. in the exhibit space on the lower level. From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., there will be a panel of experts discussing how to balance exercising, eating and everything else there is to accomplish as a student, Rudd said.
According to a survey in 2011 by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement, a survey of 10,000 adolescents with a goal to produce data on the prevalence of mental disorders among youth, 390,698 out of more than 11 million people in Ohio reported an eating disorder. This number is higher than 43 states in the country. California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas had a number higher than Ohio. However, Ohio did have the seventh-largest population.
“We know that 30 million people will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other mental-health disorder,” Holmberg said. “We urge everybody to take the time to learn the signs and the symptoms of eating disorders and for suicide, and to take the time during this week to do so.”
Along with the Body Image and Health Task Force, there are several other resources for students, including Counseling and Consultation Services — where students receive 10 free sessions — Student Health Services, Student Wellness Center and the OSU Eating Disorder Treatment Team, a collaborative multidisciplinary team consisting of mental health professionals, physicians and nutritionists. Off campus, there is the Center for Balanced Living in Worthington, which mainly focuses on severe eating disorders, but handles other problems as well, Rudd said.
“I think so many people are so focused on themselves and thinking they can have and be whatever they want to look like, and in fact that’s not possible,” Rudd said. “That thinking is very harmful, and behaviors are harmful. We really want to encourage healthy behaviors among everyone.”
Holmberg said half of the people with an eating disorder also meet the criteria for depression, and that individuals with anorexia nervosa are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Treatment for eating disorders is not the same for everybody.
“It’s really going to vary by the individual. First and foremost, it’s important for people to identify that there is an issue, and learning the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and other common mental-health issues can help people figure out what the next steps need to look like,” Holmberg said. “Doing so should happen after speaking with a qualified mental-health professional, and making an individualized plan, person-by-person.”
The city of Columbus also participates in a National Eating Disorders Association Walk, where the proceeds help eliminate eating disorders by improving prevention, treatment, and resources, according to the NEDA website. The walk will take place April 11 at Fred Beekman Park, with check in starting at 11 a.m.