What is an eating disorder?
It is a serious health condition that can be physically and emotionally destructive. It is marked by severe disturbances in eating behavior such as extreme reduction of food intake or extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight and shape. “Often, food and the control of food are used by people with eating disorders to cope with difficult or painful feelings or to gain a sense of control over their lives” (Eating Disorders: What Everyone Should Know).
The most common eating disorders are:
Anorexia Nervosa which presents as self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
Bulimia Nervosa which is characterized by a cycle of binge eating and behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting, to compensate for the binge eating.
Binge Eating Disorder which is differentiated from the other disorders by binge eating only.
What are some of the serious medical problems associated with eating disorders?
- Slow and irregular heartbeat and heart failure
- Brain injury from lack of nutrients
- Swollen joints and reduced muscle mass
- Broken bones from calcium loss
- Damage to teeth and to the esophagus
- Peptic ulcers and inflammation of the pancreas
- Electrolyte imbalances impacting nerve conduction
- Type II diabetes
All of these problems have the potential to be life-threatening
What are the warning signs?
- Repeated and relentless dieting sometimes despite significant weight loss
- Withdrawn from others at mealtime, secretive bingeing or purging
- Intense preoccupation with weight and body image
- Compulsive or excessive exercising
- Self-induced vomiting, extended periods of fasting
- Laxative, diet pill or diuretic abuse
- Significant increase or decrease in weight not related to a medical condition
- Feelings of isolation, depression, irritability or fatigue associated with the above behaviors
Engaging in any of these “warning signs” behaviors could indicate a problem. You are encouraged to use the self screening tool (keyword is “UWBothell”):
What can I do?
Eating disorders are a treatable condition from which recovery is possible. Seek professional guidance and/or contact your primary medical practitioner
- Learn about good nutrition
- Identify triggers that lead to eating disorder behaviors
- Accept that setbacks will occur in the process of changing behaviors
Make an appointment with UW Bothell Student Mental Health Counseling Services at: 425.352.3183.
To learn more, obtain a pamphlet or visit the sources listed below.
Eating Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health.
Eating Disorders. National Mental Health Information Center.
National Eating Disorders Association
Pamphlet available through UW Bothell Student Mental Health Counseling Services:
“Eating Disorders: What Everyone Should Know.” American College Health Association, 2007.