56pc of college kids hide eating disorder fears
New figures have revealed that 56pc of college students are concealing worries about their eating habits.
Although the majority generally disclose their concerns to a friend or family member, new research from Bodywhys - The Eating Disorders Association of Ireland - shows that 32pc hide their difficulties "due to a fear of judgement".
Harriet Parsons, psychotherapist and Bodywhys services manager, said recent trends suggest that it's much harder for boys and men to admit they have a problem with food.
"Boys identify an eating disorder as a female issue so they have a double hurdle or a double stigma to get through. Their fear of being judged is a huge concern and the nature of the eating disorder itself will stop somebody seeking help," she said.
"The eating disorder takes over the person's thoughts, so they're battling both the logical side and the distorted side of their head, and that is very difficult."
In contrast to depression, the survey - that included 643 students from third-level institutions across Ireland -found that instances of eating disorders were seen as more likely to be caused by individual rather than external factors.
According to Bodywhys, the average age for the onset of an eating disorder is between 15-24 years.
"A lot of firsts happen within those years - first relationship, first break-up, moving away from home for college, first job - and to survive them we need to have a strong sense of self. Often when somebody comes up against something significant, obsessive thinking can come in to help them cope," said Ms Parsons, adding that some young men's compulsion to "bulk-up" is crossing an unhealthy line.
Last week, the Healthy Ireland Survey - commissioned by the Department of Health - found that young men in the 15-24 age group stand out as the group who most want to gain weight. This trend has previously been linked to admiration for sports stars.
"There is nothing wrong with going to the gym and being fit and healthy, but the problem emerges where that body image takes precedence over everything else in their life," said Ms Parsons. Tell-tale signs include feeling anxious or panicky when they can't get to the gym, or foregoing social events to work on their physique.
"When we hear about men bulking up - it's not necessarily about sport. It becomes more about their body image and achieving perfection and that can ignite problems," added Ms Parsons, who urged all schools and colleges to be mindful of these issues.
Bodywhys can be contacted on LoCall Helpline 1890 200 444. Their website is www.bodywhys.ie