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Eating disorder rate high at Baylor, staff psychologist says

Nov. 4, 1999


Staff Writer

In 1992, singer Paula Abdul admitted she had suffered from bulimia for most of her life. Singer Karen Carpenter died in 1983 from heart failure after struggling with anorexia nervosa for eight years.

Cassie Findley, director of Health Education and Wellness, said one in four college women battle anorexia nervosa, bulimia or compulsive overeating.

The rate of eating disorders among men is rising. According to The Secret Language of Eating Disorders by Peggy Claude Pierre, 1 million American men are estimated to suffer from eating disorders.

Dr. Cynthia Wall, staff psychologist at the counseling center, said the rate of eating disorders at Baylor is high.

'We certainly see a lot,' she said. 'Our [statistics] are in the upper range [of national statistics].'

Wall said the rate of eating disorders skyrocketed during the 1960s. She said the news and entertainment media are the primary sources of pressure, followed by reactions to change in living conditions. Other factors are control and low self-esteem.

''Am I good enough?' becomes 'Am I thin enough?'' Wall said.

Findley said some people turn to food or body image for comfort.

'I think we all find ways to cope with stress and change,' she said.

Wall said there is a direct correlation between sexual abuse or rape and developing an eating disorder.

'That actually is very common,' she said.

Treatment includes nutritional counseling, therapy and a physician's involvement.

'The eating disorders are serious emotional and physical concerns,' Wall said. 'People die from eating disorders.'

Wall said treatment is available through health services, and referrals are also offered.

Hillcrest Department of Preventive Medicine hosts an Eating Disorder Support Group from 7 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday in the fifth-floor auditorium of the Julian H. Pace Administration and Education Building at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center.

'Seek help as soon as possible,' Findley said. 'There are support services and personnel who care.'

Wall also encouraged counseling.

'Although you may feel like you're in control with your eating disorder symptoms, you've never been more out of control,' she said. 'We're here to help.'