(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Maintaining a positive body positive, especially on a college campus, can be difficult, as negative feelings can lead to anxiety, depression or eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia or body dysmorphia.
“I think body image affects students; it starts so young,” said Dr. Gretchen Baldwin, licensed psychologist and clinical coordinator for counseling services at Winthrop University.
“Shape, weight, make-up, no make-up; this is a particular vulnerable time. A time where people are figuring out exactly who they are.”
Baldwin, who often works with patients dealing with mental and eating disorders, appeared on the Palmetto Report to discuss the topic of body image.
She said most eating disorders result from depression and feelings of negativity.
The National Eating Disorders Association says survey research estimates that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
“Anorexia being one of the most common disorders, where a person is feeling more out of control, there’s a lot of anxiety and compulsive behavior,” said Baldwin.
“It’s displayed and manifested when a person restricts their eating to a significant degree; they may also engage in over exercising or other means to maintain a very low average body weight. It’s very dangerous and can be deadly.”
She said anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are some of the most common eating disorders among college students.
“People with bulimia tend to be a little more out of control with their emotions. They binge sometimes in secret, you might not see them at the buffet, it’s a more private kind of binge. Then perhaps they feel so guilty or gross from that binge and throw up, or use a laxative or over exercise or some other means of removing everything they’ve consumed,” said Baldwin.
“Binge eating disorder is where someone might appear more overweight and just feels out of control and instead of facing their emotions they eat.”
Baldwin said promoting skinniness and or telling young people they must reach a certain weight is not healthy, which can have a negative effect on body image.
“I think it’s really important to know that self-image and mental health really are tied together,” said Dr. Shelley Hamill, a certified health education specialist and professor at Winthrop.
“When you look in the mirror you got a couple things going on: one how you see yourself and then the other part of that is how you feel about that. We really need to make sure we’re kind to ourselves and we surround ourselves with people that are doing the same.”
Baldwin said her 10-year-old daughter, who will begin middle school in the fall, is already dealing with body image issues and feelings of insecurity about her weight.
She said while some things are being done to promote body positivity, there is still much more that can be done to prevent young people from feeling negative about their bodies.
* Raili Burton, Amanda Mangiarelli and Elssy Rosario contributed to this report.