‘Drunkoerxia’ a growing college trend

“The college experience” is laden with stereotypes, from frat parties to frivolous hook-ups, and a growing trend of disturbing behavior is one associated with counteracting “the freshman 15,” the tendency for incoming college students to gain weight. Apparently, more students, mostly women, are maintaining extreme dieting or exercise habits in order to consume more alcohol.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks within a short period of time, equating to about two hours. A study featured in the Medical Daily cited information from 40 universities that showed “vigorous exercise and disordered eating uniquely predicted binge drinking.”

The study also revealed that “those who dieted or exercised to lose weight were over 20 percent more likely” to binge drink and those who had “vomited or used laxatives in the previous month to shed pounds were 76 percent more likely” to consume five or more drinks in a sitting.

Neeru Bakshi, M.D., FAPA, an adult psychiatrist, explained the details of this trend as ‘Drunkorexia’ and said that recent studies show raising numbers of students starving themselves or over-exercising to “offset alcohol calories for binge drinking at night.”

From the Moore Centre in Bellevue, Washington, Dr. Bakshi explained that numbers from the National Institute of Mental Health reveal that 90 percent of eating disorders are diagnosed between age 18 and 25 and that 25 percent of college students have such an ailment. The Moore Centre, founded in 1991, specializes in eating disorder treatment and recovery.

Dr. Bakshi also said that risk behaviors included “obsession with exercise,” as well as ”obsession over appearance, size, or food, disappearance after meals and depression, isolation or withdrawal from family and friends and avoidance of social activities.”

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism stated that four out of five college students drink alcohol, and half of them binge drink regularly.

Both the sufferer and the witness of eating disorders have access to help on most campuses. Dr. Bakshi said such services “can be a good first step to offer advice, support and recommendations for treatment.” However, severe cases should be referred to professional recovery centers.

Dr. Bakshi also said that eating disorders are “complex illnesses with biological, psychological and sociocultural contributing factors. There is no one thing that we can point to as the cause” of the problem.

While the development and instance of these disorders is hard to pinpoint, she said that “genetics play an important role in the development of eating disorders—individuals that have family members that have struggled with these illnesses are more likely to” suffer from an eating disorder, especially in response to the college-related triggers mentioned.