University Health and Counseling Services

Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are extreme expressions of a range of weight and food issues experienced by both men and women.  All are serious emotional problems that can have life-threatening consequences.

Anorexia Nervosa involves an intense and irrational fear of body fat and weight gain, marked determination to become thinner and thinner, and a misperception of body weight and shape to the extent that the person may feel or see "fat" even when emaciation is clear to others.  Drastic weight loss and refusal to maintain a healthy weight for height and age result.

Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by self-induced and self-defeating cycles of binge-eating and purging.  During a "binge", the person consumes a large amount of food in a rapid, automatic, and helpless fashion.  This may anesthetize painful feelings, but eventually creates physical discomfort and anxiety about weight gain.  Then, the person "purges" the food eaten, usually by induced vomiting or a combination of restrictive dieting, excessive exercising, laxatives, and diuretics.

Binge-Eating Disorder or Compulsive Eating is characterized by periods of impulsive gorging or continuous eating.  While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets.  Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity.

Although severe eating disorders are relatively rare, body dissatisfaction is prevalent, particularly among women, and a large number of young adult women engage in unhealthy weight regulation practices.  Feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as troubled family and personal relationships, may contribute to the development of an eating disorder.  Our cultural idealization of thinness and the "perfect body" is often a contributing factor.  Once started, eating disorders may become self-perpetrating.  They may being as ways to cope with painful emotions and help individuals feel in control of their lives, but they quickly undermine physical health, self-esteem, and a sense of competence and control.

Help is available!  Contact Counseling Services at 780-4050, or Health Services at 780-5411.

Other helpful organizations include:

EDA Eating Disorders Anonymous

National Eating Disorders Association

OA Overeaters Anonymous Headquarters