Food Phobia

12 12 2009

Last week in my technical writing class, this girl gave a presentation on eating disorders among college gymnasts. College gymnasts suffer from higher rates of eating disorders due to coach pressures, weigh-ins, and performance factors. She showed an interesting video on Bela Karolyi, a famous coach, and the standards he holds his gymnasts to. As a gymnast at BYU, the girl in my class discussed her battle with eating disorders. She said student athletes constantly feel pressure to maintain that “target weight” by eating chicken and vegetables. Food becomes a fear, rather than a pleasure. Eating disorders among college athletes are also influenced by other mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Combating eating disorders on college campuses requires changes from both coaches and athletes.

Eating disorders, like anorexia, are the top mental illnesses that lead to death. Anorexia is characterized by a resistance to maintaining  a healthy body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distortion of body image.  College girls are especially at risk for anorexia due to age, gender, media, and social influences. Symptoms of anorexia include thinning of bones, brittle hair and nails, dry and yellowish skin, growth of fine hair over the body, mild anemia, constipation, low blood pressure, and drop in body temperature. The social pressures in college to be thin, fit, and beautiful prompt thousands of girls to resort to unhealthy weight loss methods. Be aware of those around you. Make sure your friends try to lose weight in a healthy and safe way. Positive peer influence can make a difference; however, serious anorexia requires medical treatment.


College Coping

11 12 2009

Coping skills can help you conquer those “campus blues.”  Mental Health America offers the following suggestions:

Carefully Plan Your Day: Planning your day and prioritizing your work will give you a sense of control over what you must do. Better control will reduce stress and anxiety.

Plan Your Work and Sleep Schedules: As college students, we often leave homework and studying until late at night. Working through the night and missing out on sleep can trigger depression. Try to get eight hours of shut eye every night.

Participate in Extracurricular Activities: Extracurricular activities can provide a welcome and much needed change from classwork. Be careful not to overload.

Seek Support From Other People: Roommates or friends are great ways to make strange places feel more comfortable. Find a friend you can trust and confide in. Sharing your emotions helps you realize you are not alone.

Try Relaxation Methods: Relaxation methods include deep breathing, meditation, long walks, and exercise. Personally, I find exercise a great way to burn off stress and steam.

Take Time for Yourself: Focusing on yourself can be energizing and give you purpose in life. Focusing on others is always a great way to forget about your worries and concerns, but don’t forget to take fifteen minutes of “me” time.

These are tried and true skills to help you cope with mental illnesses. Although these coping skills are a great resource, many people need extra help through medication and counseling. In junior high, I experience  severe series of panic attacks and accompanying depression. A psychologists taught to me a game he called “now I notice.” In between deep breaths, he told me to say “now I notice…” followed by an object I saw around me. Like, “now I notice the clock.” Although, I thought the game was stupid, it worked. By focusing on simple objects, I changed my train of thought and could calm myself down. If you don’t think it works…try it! (You don’t have to say it out loud.) You can also help change your thought pattern by folding your arms and alternate tapping your elbows. If you ever feel stressed, depressed, or anxious give it a try.

Depression Hurts

11 12 2009

The typical college student experiences periods of sadness, hopelessness, frustration, and fear.  Such emotions are normal and should be expected. However, continued bouts of sadness may indicate clinical depression. Depression is a serious illness that requires medical attention. It is more than feeling those “campus blues” for a few days at a time. It is feeling down, hopeless, and sad for weeks at a time. Depression interrupts daily life and routine tasks. Personally, I experience seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that occurs during the winter months. SAD is generally treated with a light therapy, but some cases require antidepressants. Many colleges students, especially those attending schools in areas with long, cold winters, do not realize they have seasonal affective disorder. If you feel like you may suffer from SAD, find help from a school counselor, psychologist, or family doctor.

College students also suffer from major depression. Studies show that 15% of college students suffer from clinical depression, but only 33% of those with depression seek help. Major depression affects both the mind and physical body. It is characterized by a loss of interest in normal activities, feelings and emotions that disrupts a person’s ability to sleep, eat, study, work, and find pleasure. Most health professionals categorize depression as a chronic illness that requires long-term treatment.  Don’t let the term “chronic illness” scare you. With effective treatment, most people feel better and can lead a happy, healthy life. Long-treatment usually involves medication, exercise, counseling, or a combination of the three.

Don’t let depression control your life. Don’t be afraid to talk about depression. Depression isn’t your fault. If you feel depressed…find help. Tell someone.