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The Student who may have a Disordered Eating Pattern

Your responsibilities are not to diagnose or provide therapy; it is the development of a compassionate and forthright conversation that ultimately helps a student in trouble find understanding, support, and the proper therapeutic resources

Facts about eating disorders:

Eating disorders are not about food, but food is the substance that people with eating disorders use or misuse as a coping strategy. Students who have an eating disorder have both physical and psychological symptoms. They are characterized by problematic attitudes and feelings about food, weight and body shape, a disruption in eating behaviors and intense anxiety about body weight and size.


The term Disordered Eating usually refers to Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and/or Binge Eating Behavior.


Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by restricted eating, self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Warning Signs of Anorexia:

  • Is thin and keeps getting thinner, losing 15% or more of her ideal body weight.
  • Continues to diet or restrict foods even though he or she is not overweight.
  • Has a distorted body image-feels fat even when he or she is thin.
  • Is preoccupied with food, calories, nutrition or cooking.
  • Denies that he or she is hungry.
  • Exercises obsessively.
  • Weighs him/herself frequently.
  • Complains about feeling bloated or nauseated even when she eats average-or less than average-amounts of food.
  • Loses his or her hair or begins to experience thinning hair.
  • Feels cold even though the temperature is normal or only slightly cool.
  • Stops menstruating.

Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes of overeating large amounts of food in a short period of time (the binge) followed by some form of purging (i.e. vomiting, laxative use or excessive exercise).

Warning Signs of Bulimia:

  • Engages in binge eating and cannot voluntarily stop.
  • Uses the bathroom frequently after meals.
  • Reacts to emotional stress by overeating.
  • Has menstrual irregularities.
  • Has swollen glands.
  • Experiences frequent fluctuations in weight.
  • Is obsessively concerned about weight.
  • Attempts to adhere to diets, but generally fails.
  • Feels guilty or ashamed about eating.
  • Feels out of control.
  • Has depressive moods or mood swings.

Binge Eating Behavior is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating that are not followed by compensatory behaviors (purging) to prevent weight gain. Binge eating includes distress regarding the binge, eating much more rapidly than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, and eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry.

Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Eats large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
  • Eats much more rapidly than normal.
  • Eats until the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Often eats alone because of shame or embarrassment.
  • Have feelings of depression, disgust or guilt after eating.
  • Has a history of marked weight fluctuations.

If you have any questions regarding the resources available or approaching a student, call the Dean of Students Office (904-620-1491). For additional support or consultation, call the Counseling Center (904) 620-2602.