Eating disorders are real illnesses and are most aptly characterized by a person’s negative sense of body image and eating behaviors. Eating disorders encompass a range of factors that involve an obsession with food, weight and appearance.
These obsessions transcend a healthy awareness of image and nutrition to become complex compulsions that adversely affect a person’s daily activities and relationships as well as physical and mental well-being.
While commonly reported by young women, eating disorders are pervasive and can impact anyone regardless of age, sex or race. Several behaviors are indicative of eating disorders and may include restricted food intake, binge eating, bingeing and purging, the abuse of laxatives, compulsively overeating or exercising excessively. It is important to note that these are purely symptoms and not the problem. Eating disorders commonly develop as a way of coping with emotional pain, and the interplay of several factors can place a person at risk for developing an eating disorder. All eating disorders can have severe consequences to a person’s immediate and long-term health and can even lead to death, thus there is a need for people who feel they suffer from an eating disorder to seek appropriate treatment.
It is important to be aware of the elements that can place a person at risk for developing an eating disorder. It is vital that individuals take a proactive approach and bolster their support and seek help when factors such as these arise:
- Stressful life situations accompanied by the lack of adequate coping skills
- Major life changes
- Separation from family
- A growing sensitivity to socio-cultural factors and the messages about weight and appearance from the media
- Possible biological predisposition
These are links that provide more detailed descriptions of each eating disorder, treatment options, providers and support:
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Academy for Eating Disorders
- Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
We have provided some links to self-evaluation web sites. They are not intended to substitute for professional evaluation, but to inform and educate. Regardless of evaluation results, if you feel you need help with an eating disorder or any of the factors associated with them, please contact UWF Counseling Services at 474-2420.