For the millions of junior high, high school and college students back at school, the idea of returning to the classroom was probably met with mixed emotions.

For the millions of junior high, high school and college students back at school, the idea of returning to the classroom was probably met with mixed emotions.

While the school experience is built upon educational advancement, attending school is also largely a social experience. Many students find themselves working as hard to fit in as they do to improve their grades. These pressures can take a toll on someone already susceptible to emotional and behavioral conditions, such as depression or anxiety and eating disorders, or trigger feelings in someone who never struggled before.

A common concern in students of all ages is body image. Many students admit to feeling the pressure to have a good body, whether to fit into a certain clique or meet the weight requirements of a scholastic sports team. Others want to emulate their favorite stars they see in movies and on television. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia are growing concerns in schools around the country.

As many as 10 million females and one million males are fighting a life and death battle with anorexia or bulimia and another 25 million are fighting a binge eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Others are exhibiting borderline symptoms of these conditions, including poor attitudes about body weight and food.

Eating disorders are usually shrouded in secrecy, but those who are suffering should realize that reaching out for assistance is the first step to getting back on track.

Treatment for eating disorders is best when started at the onset of any indicators of a problem. Here are the top signs that someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder:

Exhibits concern about her weight and attempts to control weight by diet, refusal of food, vomiting or laxative and diuretic abuse. Does prolonged exercising despite fatigue and weakness. Has peculiar patterns regarding handling food. May eat in secrecy. Exhibits abnormally fast weight loss, without any other known medical condition. Bulimics might be slightly underweight or overweight. Experiences depressive moods and self-deprecating behavior.

Physical symptoms other than weight loss that could be indicators of an eating disorder include:

Dry skin and thinning scalp hair. Stomach and intestinal problems. Cessation of menstruation. Growth of lanugo (fine hair on body surface). Erosion of tooth enamel; tears in the esophagus (from vomiting).

Support and professional help can go a long way toward helping students through the myriad of pressures they face.

Story provided by Metro Newspaper Service.