Eating disorders are much too common in today’s society: 24 million people in America alone suffer from them, and only 10% are officially treated. Students are particularly prone to eating disorders, as 95% of women who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25, when most people are in school or recently graduated. Unfortunately, there is a new eating disorder trend among women college students called drunkorexia.
Identified in a New York Times article in 2008, drunkorexia, an unofficial medical term, is characterized as “a disturbing blend of behaviors: self-imposed starvation or bingeing and purging, combined with alcohol abuse.” Virtually, college and university women are starving themselves or vomiting their food in order to party at night and drink up a storm. A University of Missouri study found that 1 in 6 women suffer from drunkorexia.
Needless to say, I find this extremely disturbing on many levels. The medical implications of this must be absolutely horrendous. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is never a good idea, and I can’t imagine that purposely not ingesting anything but alcohol for any stretch of time can be good for the body.
I think the prevalence of drunkorexia (1 in 6! My god, that’s almost 20%!) showcases two big problems among today’s young people: peer pressure and eating disorders. Studies have shown that when a person hangs around with people who abuse drugs, alcohol, and the like, he or she will copy their behaviors in order to fit in. However, when he or she has moved on to another group of friends, he or she will not longer bother with the drugs and alcohol. College campuses, especially sororities and fraternities, are notorious for the wild partying and drugs and alcohol that come along with it. As a result, it’s not really so shocking that students want to drink in order to fit in with their friends.
And when you think about it, it’s not so shocking that the girls who drink often in order to fit in want to cut down on their calorie intake. Chances are they’re dieting in the first place (91% of college women in one survey reported dieting to lose weight), and when you add all of the calories from alcohol, it’s a lot of pressure to stay thin. Enter eating disorder.
Drunkorexics, like other women who suffer from eating disorders, show that our society places way too much importance on how women look, to the point that they feel the need to starve themselves in order to look good.
Universities need to do something about this growing trend. My suggestions:
- Have on-campus free panels discussing the issue to raise awareness.
- Train campus medical teams to recognize the signs of drunkorexia.
- Distribute brochures and pamphlets to female students about the harmful nature of this lifestyle.
- Encourage drunkorexics to seek help if they need it, whether from professors, peers, or feminist outlets on campus.
If schools work hard to deal with this issue, hopefully it can be kept under control. Drunkorexia is only a manifestation of our society’s ridiculous pressure on women and girls to look a certain way. Until these expectations are abolished, this eating disorder, like every other one, needs to be handled.