A study conducted in 2013 by the National Eating Disorders Association found that up to 20% of women and 10% of men in college struggle with an eating disorder. Other research has shown that around age 18 to 21 is the median onset of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders.
Eating disorders can affect people of any race, size, gender identity, sexual orientation, and background. However, the stereotypes associated with eating disorders paint higher-income white women as the majority of those affected. This is harmful because it misrepresents the causes of eating disorders and prevents people from identifying with and seeking ED support. BIPOC people are more likely to have bulimia or restrictive behaviors, but are half as likely to be diagnosed or treated. LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, plus-sized people, athletes, veterans, and young adults are all more likely to develop erectile dysfunction.
Many people, even clinicians, consider obsession around weight, body shape, and food to be the sole cause of erectile dysfunction. Many people think it’s only about a relationship with food and don’t recognize the emotional triggers that lead to EDs. However, trauma, mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and addiction, dysfunctional families and more all increase a person’s risk of developing an eating disorder. A study by Walden Behavioral Care found that ADHD is the most commonly missed diagnosis associated with eating disorders. 20-30% of adults with autism struggle with eating disorders, compared to the overall 10% of the US population.
Students at the University of Connecticut are no exception. COVID-19 significantly increased the development of ED behaviors. However, as someone who has experienced an eating disorder and works to support others in recovery within my role in Undergraduate Student Government, struggles and resources are not talked about enough on campus.
UConn Student Health and Wellness has free nutritional counseling where students struggling with EDs can meet with a registered dietitian. USG recently purchased Intuitive Eating Workbooks that students in counseling can receive for free. UConn SHAPE is a peer education group that promotes body acceptance among students and co-hosts the UConn Body Project with the Women’s Center to reduce eating disorder risks. UConn Recovery Community also provides a space for students struggling with substance use and/or other mental and behavioral disorders, including eating disorders. They host All Recovery meetings on Mondays at 6pm at the Recovery Community Center at 1332 Storrs Road or online.
Based on figures from the 2013 study by NEDA, up to 2,300 students struggle with eating disorders at UConn. With only four registered dietitians and three major ED-related programs on campus, the resources we currently have are insufficient to support all students in need. Fellow students have also told me how difficult it is to take time off from school to receive off-campus inpatient treatment. It is unacceptable for students to be penalized for seeking intensive or accessible treatment that is not available on campus.
UConn needs to increase and diversify the conversation about EDs on campus, increase the amount of programming and support available to students with EDs on or off campus, and have trauma-informed and culturally relevant treatment to guide recovery. Students, you are not alone, and I hope you can join the recovery journey you so deserve.