- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nearly 20 percent of college students say they have had an eating disorder, and most have never received treatment, according to a poll by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Lynn Grefe, NEDA chief executive officer, said colleges prepare to fight drugs and alcohol problems, but eating disorders — the third largest problem on campuses — are not properly addressed.

“To turn this around, we need to ensure that trained advisers who understand this illness are readily available to college populations,” said Miss Grefe, who called on medical schools to better train doctors to diagnose eating disorders.

“We’re finding that doctors out there don’t even know how to recognize the signs,” she said.

NEDA’s online poll of more than 1,000 college students said 19.6 percent of respondents have had an eating disorder, significantly more than the up to 4 percent in previous surveys, and that 75 percent had not received treatment.

In addition, 55 percent said they know someone who has had an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder.

Miss Grefe said the anonymity of the online poll made people feel free to answer truthfully. The National Institute of Mental Health have questioned previous research because of the stigma associated with mental illnesses such as eating disorders.

Women made up almost 85 percent of those who indicated they had an eating disorder and 63 percent of all respondents.

Nearly 60 percent of students thought cultural pressures to be thin helped lead to the onset of eating disorders, and 46 percent thought stress contributed.

Miss Grefe called for Congress to pass a mental-health parity bill, stating that those suffering from eating disorders need care from qualified professionals and a way to pay for treatment.

NEDA says eating disorders may begin with preoccupations with food and weight, but are often about using food and the control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem overwhelming.

Miss Grefe said students who know someone suffering from eating disorders should encourage them to seek treatment.

“Don’t be apathetic,” she said. “Take your friend’s hand, and take them to someone who knows eating disorders.”

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