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Mia, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, who chose to remain anonymous, arrived on campus healthy and happy at the height of the pandemic in 2020. But the pressures of the pandemic — coupled with the adjusting to life on campus – caused her to start slipping into patterns of anxiety and eating disorders.

The limited resources available to Mia through college exacerbated her eating disorder, causing her to reach a dangerous breaking point.

“I was definitely at the worst mentally I’ve ever been,” Mia said. “I had no mental health issues before I entered college.”

Due to their age group and transition factors, college students are at particular risk of developing eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

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While it’s true that eating disorders have a significant impact on this group — 91% of women on a college campus were dieting to control their weight, according to AN ADVERTISEMENT – not everyone fits the stereotype.

For example, the pandemic has worsened eating disorder patterns among transgender and non-binary people, who often already struggle with body image issues, according to a researcher. American Psychological Association study.

Hispanics, blacks and Asians are about as likely as whites to have eating disorders, but they are much less likely to receive professional help, according to National Eating Disorders Association. A study found that traditional and cultural factors play a significant role in how women of color, particularly South Asian American women, understand diet and body image.

In addition, ten million men suffer from eating disorders, and contrary to popular belief, many people with eating disorders are overweight or obese, according to the National Anorexia Nervosa Association.

The transition to college life can be a significant stressor that can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder, according to Katherine Schaumbering, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at UW. College means a new schedule, new friends, and new anxieties.

All of this can affect an individual’s relationship with food, Schaumburg said. Recovery from eating disorders is a long and complicated road that requires a lot of support, she added.

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A major treatment for adolescents and young adults is family treatment, Schaumburg said. This treatment requires thinking about integrating families and other support systems to help people recover.

As a student, this can be difficult to obtain, especially since many students are far from their loved ones. Thus, it is crucial that the university provide adequate resources for students struggling with their relationships with food and their bodies.

University Health Services “has expanded its treatment team to serve students seeking care for eating disorders, including positions in mental health and medical services designed to increase care coordination,” it said. Molly Caradonna, acting UW eating disorders coordinator, said in an email to the Herald.

After her first round of treatments and a conversation with her doctor about the consequences of her disordered eating habits, Mia contacted UHS to seek help on campus. She was then subjected to another two weeks of waiting for an appointment, which only added to her frustration and anxiety.

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To alleviate this issue, UHS is working to reduce barriers to care by introducing a walk-in support group via telehealth,” Caradonna said.

Another factor that makes recovery from eating disorders difficult is the dominant discourse on weight loss and the culture of eating, according to the Integrated life center.

Rise in eating disorders linked to ‘higher rates of depression and anxiety, as well as isolation and reliance on social media for interaction’ and ‘pandemic stress’ , Caradonna said.

Committing to recovering from an eating disorder can be difficult because of the social focus on weight loss, Mia said.

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“The rest of society is… so focused on consistent weight loss and losing weight,” Mia said.

But the idea that being too thin can be as dangerous as being overweight is rarely discussed, and trying to gain weight in a culture that constantly tells you to diet can seem impossible, says the National Alliance for Eating Disorderss.

This messaging is particularly prevalent on social media apps like TikTok, which Mia says only made her disorder worse.

On other social media sites (notably Tumblr), countless users have romanticized eating disorders, posting “thinspo” and “pro-ana” messages, according to Atlantic. This problem peaked on Tumblr in the early 2010s, when many of today’s students were teenagers.

“I think there should be more than one way but [UW] can provide… alternative options that are not necessarily with the school,” Mia said. “Not all students are fortunate enough to have health insurance, but a good portion do, and it would have been helpful if they had provided a list of outside resources.”

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the UHS Website recommends that students who need eating disorder-specific counseling use community therapy providers to supplement their services.

For students who would be better cared for in long-term, specialty, or open services, UHS care managers will connect them to off-campus resources in the Madison area. Care managers provide support UHS while the student establishes a connection with an external provider.

However, low-income people often cannot afford high-quality mental health treatment, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Raising awareness and removing the stigma around eating disorders and seeking treatment is a good first step to reducing the problem on campus, Schaumburg said.

UHS now offers a walk-in support group for people struggling with eating disorders, as well as treatment plans tailored to individual needs.

Campus organizations like BadgerSpill, PAVE-UWNational Alliance on Mental Illness, Ask.Listen.Record and active minds all seek to improve campus-wide mental health issues.