Eating disorders are rampant among college students, according to Leonard Bohanon, a psychologist for the University of Houston Counseling and Testing Center.
Bohanon, a panel discussion member, was one of several participants at the National Eating Disorders Screening Day held Tuesday in the World Affairs Lounge at the University Center.
Designed to help educate the public about eating disorders and encourage individuals suffering from the illness to seek help, the event was part of a national week-long effort to raise awareness about the disease.
"The event is a public outreach program created to educate students and refer those that need help," said Rosemary Hughes, assistant director for the center.
Stationed on both the first floor and the underground of the UC, Wellness Center staff and student peer educators from the Cougar Peer Education Program handed out informational flyers and questionnaires to students.
Counselors evaluated the questionnaires for significant signs of eating disorders. Students who showed signs of needing help were referred to UH campus health organizations and community services.
"One of the main purposes of this event is to destigmatize the preconceived notions that people have about this disease," said Wellness Center Program Manager Christopher Kerr. "We want students to know that there is no shame in getting help."
The midday event also included an interpretive dance focusing on perceptions of body image and shape, which the National Eating Disorders Organization (NEDO) finds is the leading cause of dieting for most women.
According to a report conducted by NEDO, 80 percent of females up to the age of 18 try to conform to North American models, who weigh on the average 23 percent less than normal.
The event also focused on the different types of disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.
Anorexia nervosa is a disease that involves a preoccupation with dieting and thinness, which leads to complications such as excessive weight and hair loss, bruises and dry skin.
Counselors defined the differences between bulimia nervosa and binge eating. While both involve frequent episodes of uncontrollable eating, bulimia, unlike binge eating, is followed by purging and intense feelings of guilt and shame.
In an effort to promote health consciousness over spring break, the Wellness Center will hold an HIV Awareness & Safer Sex Day, March