Recovery from an eating disorder is typically a long, arduous process characterized by moments of relapse. But an undergraduate student’s study could aid the eating disorder community by better understanding the connection between eating disorders and anxiety disorders.

Cal State Monterey Bay psychology student Rebecca Von Oepen, who graduated December 2015, examined anxiety levels in relation to eating disorder behaviors using archival data provided by The Lotus Collaborative, an outpatient program that serves Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay.

Working with the program, Von Oepen’s research led to the development of a database that the center’s therapists use to track the longitudinal changes in clients' eating disorder behaviors and anxiety levels. The tracking of changes has improved treatment techniques and further refined the assessment tools used by The Lotus Collaborative.

Von Oepen's accomplishments, both as a mentor with The Lotus Collaborative and as the founder of an on-campus support group for college students struggling with body images issues, were recognized with a campus service learning award.

“This research can make important contributions to understanding the impact of specific treatment practices on mental health as they relate to anxiety and eating disorders,” says Cal State Monterey Bay’s Dr. Mrinal Sinha, assistant professor of psychology. “Insights gleaned from the data analyses can be implemented quickly, thereby improving the physical and psychological well-being of people participating in the organization’s programs.”