Categories
Depression

Anxiety and Its Impact on College Campuses

By: Yasharah Raza

Are you a college student? Do you spend a lot of time on a campus? If so, chances are you’ve seen the stressed visages that are so characteristic of college students. Many college students across the United States have a healthy balance of stress, anxiety, and free time in their lives; however many more suffer from anxiety disorders that have a great impact on their physical and mental health and overall well-being.

The first onset of an anxiety disorder often occurs in college. In fact, 30 million adults in the United States suffering from an anxiety disorder experienced their first occurrence by age 22 (ADAA, 2015). On top of that, over 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders each year (ADAA, 2015). There is a wide range of anxiety disorders that can specifically affect college students, including—but not limited to—Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and General Anxiety Disorder (MHAI, 2007).

Why are there so many people, especially college students, who suffer from anxiety? Entering college is a highly transitory period for almost every student. “Students experience many firsts, including new lifestyle, friends, roommates, exposure to new cultures and alternate ways of thinking,” said Hilary Silver, a licensed clinical social worker (Psych Central, 2015). All of these new elements of life, combined with the increase in academic competitiveness across college campuses can have a profound impact on students, especially those who may have already been struggling with a mental disorder in high school or even earlier (Psych Central, 2015).

Because students often fear suffering from the perceived social stigma attached to being diagnosed with a mental disorder such as anxiety, many students fail to receive the help that they need. Often times, the people surrounding the student may not even be aware that he or she may be suffering from an anxiety disorder (Psych Central, 2015). It is vital that people who may be struggling take advantage of resources available to college students, such as hotlines and local counseling centers. Anxiety disorders may be rampant across college campuses, but that doesn’t mean that one has to go untreated. If treated properly, college students will find that anxiety disorders need not affect them as much as they perceive it to.

References:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2015). Facts. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from: http://www.adaa.org/finding-help/helping-others/college-students/facts

Mental Health America of Illinois. (2007). Healthy Minds: Tips for Every College Student. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from: http://www.mhai.org/College_Students.pdf

Psych Central. (2015). Depression and Anxiety among College Students. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from: http://psychcentral.com/lib/depression-and-anxiety-among-college-students/0001425

Categories
Autism Spectrum Disorder

Anxiety Disorders and its Overlap with Eating Disorders

While the relationship between anxiety and eating disorders may seem minimal at first, there is certainly more than what meets the eye. In fact, the link between the two is quite profound. For example, it is more than common for individuals with eating disorders to also have anxiety or anxiety-related disorders (i.e. social anxiety disorders, panic disorder, agoraphobia, etc.) (“Eating Disorders”). This relationship is perhaps due to commonalities in how both diseases come to origin and develop (“Eating Disorders”).

Both anxiety and eating disorders result in feelings of irrational, undue fear (“Eating Disorders”). The fear resulting from anxiety can be due to a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, social situations―as in social anxiety disorders, specific objects and situations―as in phobias, etc. (“Eating Disorders”). Eating disorders which may seem irrelevant at first, also results in individuals feeling fear (“Eating Disorders”). In this case, the fear revolves around gaining weight (“Eating Disorders”). Furthermore, while this post mainly deals with the correlation between anxiety disorders and eating disorders, it is also common for other psychological illnesses to be present simultaneously in individuals with eating disorders. Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance abuse are also fairly common among those with eating disorders (“Eating Disorders”).

Fortunately, both anxiety and eating disorders are both very treatable, and it is possible for one to become free from both disorders. Like mentioned earlier, there are several issues that are common between both forms of mental illnesses. Because of this, both can be treated at the same time and perhaps in the same manner (“Eating Disorders”). However, it is important to note that recovery from one doesn’t necessarily mean that one will be cured from the other (“Eating Disorders”). Therefore, it is important to seek out help for both and let a professional develop a proper course for treatment.

As rendered in the past, the stigma of eating disorders is a consequence of the general public’s misinformation, misconceptions and perhaps even, knowledge (or lack thereof) of eating disorders―e.g. its roots, the toll it takes on those facing the disorders, and even, the seriousness of anorexia, bulimia, etc. However, what hasn’t been delved deeper into, at least on this website, are the stigmas associated with anxiety disorders. Certainly, it is an issue that only those with anxiety can fully understand. However, the stigma again originates from misinformation.

There are many similarities between the stigmas of eating disorders and anxiety disorders. The following are some of the misconceptions of anxiety accumulated by the Australian Natural University College of Medicine (chart found at: http://nimhr.anu.edu.au/mental-health-measures/generalised-anxiety-stigma-scale-gass) (Griffiths). It can be clearly seen that the perceived notions of anxiety disorders actually overlap fairly with that of eating disorders. It’s important to note that all of these notions are incorrect and are harmful to those facing anxiety (and likewise, eating disorders). For example, the first bulleted stigma states that “anxiety disorders are not a real medical illness” (Griffiths). However, this couldn’t be further from the truth in that anxiety disorders are real medical issues and must be treated as such. The same goes for eating disorders. The best way to recovery is seeking out help from medical personnel much like for any other health issues. The second stigma states “anxiety disorders are a sign of personal weakness” (Griffiths). However, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders as well, are of physiological and psychological origins, rather than a product of personal weakness. Without going through the entire list, it is certainly important to realize that both are disorders that may be misconstrued by the general public due to incorrect prejudgments and unfair assumptions. Regardless, the way to deal with both is to seek out professional treatments. Furthermore, a strong, close network of loved ones can also be of great help and importance.

 

References:

“Eating Disorders.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ADAA, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.

Griffiths, Kathy. “Generalised Anxiety Stigma Scale (GASS).” National Institute for Mental Health Research. Australian National University, 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Categories
Eating Disorders

Mass Media: Adding Fuel to the Fire

By Joseph Jacob

In previous blog posts, we’ve touched upon the media’s shrinking definition of beauty. This is something that we are more than familiar with—magazines and billboards featuring extremely thin models in tight and provocative clothing, TV commercials of male and female models promoting beauty products, perfume/cologne, and clothing, movies and shows with women who are toned and men with six-packs and muscles. But before we go any further, it is important to note that in almost all cases CGI, excessive makeup, and photo-editing software are extensively used to make these men and women more “attractive” (that is, in the eyes of advertising and marketing companies). In other words, beauty portrayed in the media sphere is often manufactured thus pushing the image of beauty further from reality—a consequence of living in a society where “sex sells.” The best way of selling a product is through sex appeal, or featuring women and men who are, interestingly enough, unusually skinny. This is a disservice to these models who are skinny to begin with as well as to society as a whole.

The media works to produce and place advertisements so that their intended customers will see and hopefully buy their product. For instance, it was found that women’s magazines contained 10 times more advertisements and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines (Stice). Though it would be false to accuse magazine advertisements as the main cause of eating disorders in women, it is important to see the correlation between how exposure to the ideology that being thin is of great importance can lead to feelings of depression, stress, guilt, shame, insecurity, and body dissatisfaction (“Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders”). This, in turn, can develop eating pathologies such as anorexia and bulimia as well as excessive and harmful dieting (“Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders”).

Social media can also foster these previously mentioned sentiments. Facebook, Twitter, and other sites also play a substantial role in propagating feelings of dissatisfaction with one’s body image. For instance, seeing Facebook friends post pictures of their toned bodies or talking about skipping meals to lose weight can bring feelings of guilt into the minds of the viewer. Being surrounded by these posts and pictures that praise thinness work hand in hand with the media to promote feelings of negative self-image. However, it is not all bleak as our society is moving in a direction that promotes health over thinness, wellness over a number on a tag. In addition, the public is taking a stand against this mentality of hyper-thinness that has since captivated our youth.

 

References:
Stice, Eric, Erika Schupak-Neuberg, Heather E. Shaw, and Richard I. Stein. “Relation of Media
Exposure to Eating Disorder Symptomatology: An Examination of Mediating
Mechanisms.” PII: S0021-843X(02)00526-6 (1994): n. pag. Uwindsor.ca. Journal of
Abnormal Psychology, 11 Apr. 1994. Web. 7 Dec. 2014.
“Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders.” National Eating Disorders Association. NEDA, n.d.
Web. 05 Dec. 2014.

Categories
Eating Disorders

Obesity: The Increasing Stigma

By Joseph Jacob

Imagine being judged and defined by the way you look. Imagine being discriminated against or ostracized based on characteristics that will never define your personality. More often than not, the way we are perceived by others is important in shaping our own self-image. That said, it becomes increasingly important for us to support and accept one another despite our insignificant differences, especially with regards to weight. According to a recent study, the problems of stigmatization of people, especially children, who are obese has only increased from the 1960s to early 2000s (Latner). The stereotype that those with obesity lack willpower and discipline is ever-present— if not on the rise— and is hardly ever challenged as evidence with bullying, rejection, and prejudice (Puhl). And in fact many factors can be predisposed to the stigma surrounding obesity including the media, employment, health care, and interpersonal relationships (Puhl).

This mentality can have adverse effects including but not limited to: psychological consequences, social inequality, and a low quality of life (Puhl). Moreover, this weight bias can lead to social rejection and can even lead to thoughts of depression, suicide, and eating disorders.

The consequences are certainly far-reaching and require further inquiry. While obesity may be an issue in terms of health, stigmatization and disenfranchisement are not remedies, but harmful. Weight gain is common, but the best way to improve upon it is through healthy lifestyle changes, not through shaming others who may resort to dangerous eating habits. Emphasis should be placed on health as opposed to a number (i.e. body weight and BMI). While obesity may be unhealthy, eating disorders and extreme dieting are far more detrimental. Thus, it is imperative that individuals strive for health, not body image.

 

References:

Latner, Janet D., and Albert J. Stunkard. “Getting Worse: The Stigmatization of Obese

Children.” Obesity Research 11.3 (2003): 452-56. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

 

Puhl, Rebecca M. “Health Consequences of Weight Stigmatization and the Contribution to

Obesity and Eating Disorders.” Yale Rudd Center (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

 

Categories
Eating Disorders

Diabulimia: Sugar Overload

            A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at the age of thirteen could be a lot for most to handle. Keeping a handle on diabetic symptoms and their effects on the body demands conscious regulation of food intake and exercise along with timely insulin injections or pills. While most teenagers can down candy bar after candy bar, those with diabetes need to think twice. With the proper familial and medical support, however, such a transition becomes easier and they simply develop a new lifestyle around their diabetes. Or so we hope.

            The constant onslaught of mass media’s body expectations casts its net over everyone who engages in it. In today’s society that is the overwhelming majority. We become conditioned to believe that this is the way our bodies should look. Especially in the teenage years, where one begins to take an active role in finding themselves, this image carries a lot of weight. The constant search for easy shortcuts and quick results is yet another byproduct of our hyper-connected, technological world. Now when these two concepts mix we find many teenagers thrust into the search for an easy way to shed pounds and willing to try anything without thinking of all of the consequences. We then see the rise of diabulimia where the above diagnosis becomes more an opportunity to lose weight than an impediment.

            The main concern with diabulimia is its propensity to comorbidities and the onslaught of severe medical repercussions on account of this. Diabulimia is characterized by a tendency to eat large quantities of food, especially those enriched with sugars and other carbohydrates, and losing that excess sugar by frequent urination (Dada, 2012). For those with diabetes, that often means either limiting or completely restricting much needed insulin injections. How do the two coordinate?

            Type 1 diabetes entails the inability to produce sufficient if any insulin by the pancreas (Dada, 2012). Cells in the body need insulin in order to take up glucose from the blood and use its energy. When one lacks enough insulin, the body’s cells go into starvation mode causing one to lose weight. However, more sugar builds up in the blood, putting excessive strain on the kidneys to get rid of this build-up by more frequent urination. This weight loss comes at the expense of healthy kidneys and puts the patient at much higher risk for heart attack, stroke, vascular disease, infertility and quite possibly death.

            It is important for those who receive a type 1 diabetes diagnosis to receive proper support from the very beginning. Especially those who are in their teenage years or younger. It is normal for patients to gain some weight at the start of insulin injections and this should be properly relayed as a temporary, healthy change before the start of treatment. Many suggest the help of a registered dietician (RD) to monitor and assist in constructing and maintaining a new appropriate diet. Familial support is also key. Parents should be ready and willing to administer insulin injections or at least keep track of them in order to ensure that younger patients with diabetes take proper care of themselves.

 

Dada, J.H. (2012, August). Understanding Diabulimia — Know the Signs and Symptoms to Better Counsel Female Patients. Today’s Dietitian. 14(8), 14.


 THIS POST HAS NOT YET BEEN REVIEWED BY PROFESSIONAL FACULTY.

Categories
Eating Disorders

Orthorexia: The Celebrated Not-Yet- an-Eating-Disorder

Picture found on: zengardener.com
Picture found on: zengardener.com

     With extensive research being done all over the world on different foods and the effects of food manufacturing, today’s healthy eater has a lot more information available  to consider before taking a bite into a snack. Many new eating lifestyles have come about in recent years with specific restrictions on what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, etc. Healthy choices are important but healthy portion size and timely meals are equally as important. When a new “healthy” diet meant to keep out any unhealthy foods begins to restrict too much, it has  the exact opposite effect than was intended. 
    

     With the number of overly restrictive diets increasing, the number of people who have foregone proper nutrition in the name of such diets have also increased. When one works to maintain an excessively strict diet to the point where it becomes detrimental to one’s health, one may be dealing with orthorexia. Orthorexia is a name created by Steven Bratman MD but is not yet recognized by the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders edition 5) as an eating disorder (Kratina).  However, it is considered and spoken about on the National Eating Disorders website as a special issue that deserves proper attention and treatment. Although orthorexia may stem from healthy intentions, it most certainly does not reflect a beneficial or healthy lifestyle. Literally, orthorexia means “fixation on righteous eating” stemming from the Greek root words orthos (“right”) and orexis (“appetite”). This literal translation accurately reflects the nature of the situation (Kratina). People with orthorexia become consumed by their diets, regulating every bite before it goes into their mouth and considering all of the information and research available on food before deciding their meals (Kratina). This obsession is not necessarily fueled by a desire to become thin but rather the desire to be “healthy”. 
    

      Additional fuel is provided by the current state of society, especially in terms of food intake. With high rates of obesity, especially in the United States, media and society create a hyperaware, hyper alert eater in an effort to tackle the  high rates. We look to those who highly regulate their food intake as the societal ideal: the smart and sensible consumer. Thus, we glorify this restricted eating and further fuel those who are inclined to make a change in their diet to become excessively restrictive and proud of these new unhealthy eating habits (Kratina). We celebrate orthorexia instead of understanding it for what it is, an impediment from real healthy choices. 

Kratina, Karin, PhD, RD, LD/N. “Orthorexia Nervosa.” NEDA. National Eating Disorders                       Association, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

Categories
Eating Disorders

Binge Eating Disorder: The Uncomfortable BED

              When society sees a person losing weight to the point of an emaciated figure, it immediately recognizes the illness that person is suffering from: an eating disorder. Most of society would then reach out a hand to help that person and get him/her the right treatment. Yet this limited perception of the scope of eating disorders causes  a lot of people suffering to slip under the radar. Eating disorders are not just characterized by the exercise of restraint from food or excessive exercise. There are some struggling with eating disorders who are unhealthily drawn to food, instead of away from it. Rather than seen as struggling with an illness society sees these people as struggling with their weight on account solely of their own actions. The reality remains that many people who are struggling with their weight are struggling with an eating disorder, whether they appear very slim or a little bigger. One major eating disorder that addresses detrimental cravings and desires for food is Binge eating Disorder

                Binge eating Disorder (BED) oftentimes presents itself in the form of a larger and sometimes obese body. When checking for  BED, the main issue at hand is the frequency and volume of food intake. One with BED will engage in repeated episodes of binge eating which entails a lack of control. Ultimately resulting in a very large consumption of food within a two hour period.  The activity during and after the two hour binge will also reveal more information. Someone with BED demonstrates at least three of the following characteristics with regards to eating. Either food is eaten too quickly, or food is consumed past the point of satiation, or food is eaten of embarrassment from the sheer quantity of how much is being eaten by one individual, especially in groups. Other characteristics include food being eaten despite lack of hunger and the expression  of guilt and/or depression after eating large quantities

                In order to be diagnosed with  binge-eating disorder, the episodes of binge eating must  occur quite regularly: at least twice a week for a six-month period. If one is participating in binges this frequently, one would be much more susceptible to developing health drawbacks such as high cholesterol or diabetes. These negative health consequences prove binge-eating disorder to be a detrimental medical problem. Eating patterns that are  strong and persistent even for a six-month period can most definitely prove deleterious to one’s health as they become more and more engrained into one’s lifestyle. It is important that we recognize those suffering from binge-eating disorder as deserving of proper treatment rather than receive societal taunts for their actions.  People suffering from BED are suffering and should be gently and kindly encouraged to seek treatment and get help just as anyone else suffering from an illness.

THIS POST HAS NOT YET BEEN REVIEWED BY EXPERT FACULTY .

Categories
Eating Disorders

Males and Eating Disorders

By Joseph Jacob

In the public’s eye, eating disorders are unfortunately labeled as a ‘feminine disease.’ While often thought to affect only young girls and women, eating disorders are actually fairly common among males. In fact, more than 10% of those with eating disorders are male (Shiltz). However, many men are reluctant to express their eating disorders to others due to the fact that the illness has traditionally been associated with women. Thus, men with eating disorders often refuse to seek treatment and support for fear of being stereotyped as effeminate and labeled weak or vulnerable— characteristics that unfortunately are, by tradition, associated with women and mental illnesses (“Eating Disorders in Males”). This, in conjunction with the other negative stigmas associated with eating disorders, can further diminish an individual’s self-esteem and dishearten them.

Elaborating on the previously-mentioned statistic (1/10 of those with eating disorders being male), studies have shown that there are likely many more undocumented cases of those struggling with the illness (Shiltz). Because, often men, adolescent males, and young boys, embarrassed by their eating disorder, refuse to seek out professional help.

It’s worth noting that men, women, girls, and boys often turn to anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and EDNOS for similar reasons. Often, these males and females seek to achieve a thin, toned or muscular body image so praised by media (not excluding social media) as the paramount of perfection. Of course, eating disorders also find roots in bullying, dieting, trauma, and a history of obesity (“Eating Disorders in Males”). So, because none of these criteria are exclusively male or female, it makes sense that eating disorders are genderless as well, right? Well, the stereotype of the ‘female disease’ seems ever-present, and perhaps greatly affects the way friends and family approach a very serious/dangerous illness.

However, it is not all grim. Today in the United States, we are making historically-strong efforts to engage and include everyone regardless of their gender, race, age, sexual orientation, and with a greater effort, their mental illness. By becoming informed and thus, understanding eating disorders— their underlying causes, consequences, and hardships—it’s inevitable that illness will be met by sympathy, compassion, and no longer bear cruel stigma. Because as we become accepting of others regardless of trivial differences, increased awareness of eating disorders will lead to more advocacy, acceptance, and support for those struggling.

 

References:

“Eating Disorders in Males.” Www.nedc.com.au. National Eating Disorders Collaboration, n.d.

Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Shiltz, Tom. “Research on Males and Eating Disorders.” Www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

NEDA, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Categories
Eating Disorders

Bulimia Nervosa: The Roller Coaster

           Mood swings are never fun. No one wants to feel a wide range of emotions in a short span of time, nor does one want to be near someone vacillating from one end of the spectrum to the other. Those days seem to be the worst. Yet what happens when that swinging pattern, from one extreme end to the other, is imposed in one’s eating habits? One would lose control at the sight of food and devour it instinctively, only to spend the next minutes or hours fixated on how to rid one’s self of whatever was just consumed.. In the case of those with Bulimia Nervosa, , that pendulum swings from one end to the other quickly and instantly.

            Bulimia Nervosa as an eating disorder is characterized by bouts of binge eating followed by purging in which the  person tries to rid him/herself of that food. Like Anorexia Nervosa, this eating disorder stems from a desire to attain a skinny body. Yet unlike those with Anorexia whose drive for thinness leads them to constantly exercise restraint around food, people with Bulimia periodically feel a loss of control around food and thus binge. People with Bulimia often also try strict dieting and exercise regimens in order to lose weight but this restrain leads them to develop a deeper desire for that food. 

           Regardless of this heightened pull towards food, a 2013 study shows that the driving force behind this eating disorder remains a dissatisfaction with body image (Van den Eyde et al., 2013). This 2013 study monitored brain activity among women with Bulimia Nervosa when presented with food cues and body images. The study showed that women with Bulimia reacted differently than those without Bulimia when asked to compare themselves to slim women , but demonstrated the expected brain activity when presented with images of food. Thus we can see that this fixation with food felt by those with Bulimia have little to do with food and everything to do with their perception of body image and a critical view of themselves.

References:

Van den Eyde, F., Giampietro V., Simmons A., Uher R., Andrew C., Harvey P., Campbell I., Schmidt U. (2013). Brain responses to body image stimuli but not food are altered in women with bulimia nervosa. BMC Psychiatry 13(302). doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-302

THIS POST HAS NOT YET BEEN REVIEWED BY PROFESSIONAL FACULTY.

 

Categories
Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa: The (Not So) Fun House of Mirrors

          Ever look at a Barbie’s figure and wish that your reflection looked the same? Or have you seen Barbie’s stylish friend Ken and thought: that’s got to be me one day. With the rate of obesity worldwide having doubled since 1980 according to the World Health Organization, one would think that these slimmer ideals would cause a healthy shift towards a more fit ideal body; that it would stimulate a healthy movement towards better food choices and optimal levels of exercise. But the problem lies in the actual construction of Barbie’s super-slim-yet–curvy figure, for this figure is physically impossible. And so many are left running and dieting in pursuit of a figure that never quite matches that reflection in the mirror. That reflection always seems just too big. And over time that reflection is still too big even when the actual body has gotten  more and more slender. And this pattern continues until the body is noticeably unhealthily slender to everyone except for the person standing in front of the mirror.

            Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characteristic of long periods of starvation or very restricted food intake. Oftentimes a person with Anorexia will also work out excessively and almost obsessively work towards a perpetually thinner body. Even as a body with Anorexia gets thinner, its reflection remains large. No, that wasn’t a typo. It is, rather, the reality someone with Anorexia lives with every day. Studies looking at how a person with Anorexia understands others and how he/she perceives his/her own body shows a gap in their brain’s capacity to understand these images properly. One such study monitored overall brain function[N1]  as patients with Anorexia were asked to compare their bodies and  their homes with images of slim bodies and with picture of other homes in order to flesh out any differences in the reactions (Friederich et al. 2010). When these patients were asked to analyze the pictures of homes in relation to their own homes, they did not exhibit much anxiety; especially not in comparison to when they were asked to compare the ideal body to their own . The houses also carry some emotional attachment as they too can be considered a reflection of one’s taste. Yet the patients were not nearly as offended or ashamed of their homes as they were of their bodies. Researchers even monitored their brain activity in search of a scientific understanding of this disparity and came to see that certain parts of the brain were activated only when patients were asked to compare their body image. People with Anorexia are not merely in denial of the reality of their emaciated figure, they actually seem to be wired to only see an unfitting image in the mirror, to be dissatisfied with their reflection . Body dissatisfaction is a key factor at work with Anorexia and its severity distinguishes this disorder from other eating disorders as well

            Dealing with Anorexia is not as simple as forcing yourself to eat. Its relearning how you see yourself. And that is a much steeper task.

References: 

Friederich, H-C., Brooks S., Uher R., Campbell I., Giampietro V., Brammer M., Williams S.,

Herzog., Treasure J., (2010). Neural correlates of body dissatisfaction in anorexia nervosa. Neuropsychologia, 48(10): 2878- 2885. Doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.04.036

 

THIS POST HAS NOT YET BEEN REVIEWED BY PROFESSIONAL FACULTY.