Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are widespread in our society and they are underreported due to social stigma and denial. They are complex to understand but treatable, and people with suspected eating disorders should seek professional, competent treatment. Left untreated, eating disorder behaviors may become a person's coping mechanism for any unpleasantness, and eventually eating disorders can be fatal.
The roots of eating disorders are biological, genetic, psychological, social and developmental in nature. People of all shapes and sizes may be struggling with eating disorders. In other words, even people of normal weight or people who are overweight may be diagnosed with an eating disorder. The three most common eating disorders are Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating. Basic definitions of each are found below:
  • Anorexia is self-imposed starvation. It frequently develops in adolescence. People with anorexia are dissatisfied with their body image and have a strong desire to lose weight. People with anorexia may be obsessed with food, but they deny themselves. There may be excessive exercising and weighing. As the anorexia progresses, there are physical symptoms caused by malnutrition.
  • Bulimia is the repeated cycle of out-of-control eating followed by some form of purging, i.e. vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, or excessive exercising.
  • Binge Eating is characterized by episodes of uncontrolled eating (binging) followed by deep feelings of guilt or depression. Binge Eating is different from Bulimia because it does not involve purging. These episodes occur at least once a week over a period of several months.
What do you do if you suspect a loved one is struggling with an Eating Disorder? This can be difficult because the loved one may be quite skilled at hiding the symptoms and may adamantly deny there is a problem. If you are concerned about your child, consult your pediatrician who can prescribe lab work to screen for malnutrition, and/or a dietician. Provide nutritious food in the home, along with a positive and warm environment at mealtimes. Be kind and be positive. Educate yourself. Some good places to begin your research are listed below:
This site has an extensive bibliography of books for people who are struggling with eating disorders as well as screening tools and tips for care-givers (parents) 
These resources cannot take the place of counseling, but you may find that they offer helpful insight into the dynamics of anxiety. For more support, or with assistance in finding a local counselor, please contact your child's school counseling department.