With National Eating Disorder Awareness Week falling on the week of Feb. 28 -March 6, Emporia State’s counseling department and its students face the complex issue of eating disorders.
“[My friend] was always very conscious of what she was eating, looking like and how people were seeing her,” said Matt Bricker, senior sociology major. “She tried counseling, but that was hit and miss. Recovery was a long process for her, and it took a lot of effort.”
The purpose of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to ultimately prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment, according to the National Eating Disorder Awareness’ official Web site.
“Eating disorders are not talked about very often,” said Anita Bodkin, counselor for Emporia State’s counseling center. “It’s a hard thing to admit to but our campus has students with eating disorders just like any other college campus.”
Bodkin says the consumption, or purging, of food for the body can be an attempt to fulfill some other emotional need that is being unfulfilled.
“Eating disorders are often called a ‘needing disorder,’” said Sally Crawford-Fowler, assistant director of student wellness of the counseling center. “There is a need to feel good, and I think the media and most of society puts a lot of pressure on people to be a certain way to feel good. Eating disorders are much more common amongst people with perfectionist personalities.”
The counseling associated with helping alleviate the effects of eating disorders involves a significant amount of counseling and discussion, Bodkin said.
“We try to help the person figure out that need that is going unfulfilled,” Bodkin said. “Once we’ve identified that need we try and help them meet it in a healthy and productive manner.”
ESU counselors provide services for students with eating disorders, but the center has no formal plans for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The center’s commitment to providing care for eating disorders all the time instead of one week a year is the reason for the lack of plans, Crawford-Fowler said.
“Most people don’t seek treatment till it interferes with their social lives,” Crawford-Fowler said. “We always have literature and counselors available for anyone who needs it.”
Many students enter college with eating disorders, or other issues, that they did not have the resources to treat before, Bodkin said.
“My friend had an eating disorder in high school,” Bricker said. “She was only able to start recovery in college.”
Peer groups and self-image were the keys to Bricker’s friend’s recovery from the effects of her eating disorder.
“She definitely needed a better support group,” Bricker said. “Some of her friends had similar problems, and it didn’t help her. She seems much happier now, and less concerned with perceptions and much more willing to be herself.”