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Eating Disorders and Body Image Concerns

Have you ever told yourself, "I’m not good enough… If I lose weight I’ll be happy"? Do you think of food as "good" or "bad"? Do you avoid looking in the mirror? Do you take hours to get ready for work or school? Do you tend to judge people by how fat or slim they look? Do you turn toward food to cope with stress or sadness? Do you eat to distract yourself from problems?

You’re not alone.

Due to cultural ideals of feminine beauty, young women feel a strong desire to be thinner than their bodies naturally tend to be. As a result, they change their eating patterns and they may develop eating disorders. The most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. Both eating disorders are more common among young adults than at any other age. Below you will find information on

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious psychological and physiological disorder. Anorexia Nervosa has the following characteristics:

  • The anorexic restricts eating to the point of emaciation.
  • The anorexic may exercise constantly and take laxatives or diuretics to lose weight.
  • The most common ages of onset are 11 and 18, the beginning and ending of adolescence.
  • The disorder is mostly diagnosed in the upper middle class. However, both rich and poor can develop the disorder.
  • Even though anorexics are extremely thin and underweight, most insist that they are not hungry or thin.
  • With psychological help about 1/3 of all anorexics get better. About 20% die of the disorder.
  • Approximately 60% of all anorexics also develop bulimia.

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is binge-eating followed by self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives. Bulimia has the following characteristics:

  • The disorder usually begins in late adolescence and early adulthood.
  • It is not easily recognized by others because bulimics may be of normal weight or a little overweight.
  • Bulimics are aware of the problem and try to keep it a secret.
  • Bulimics may become depressed, guilty, and disgusted with their binge-purge cycles. Yet they will not stop the behavior.

What Causes Anorexia Nervosa & Bulimia?

  • A desire for control, competence, and independence.
  • Discomfort with sexual thoughts and feelings.
  • Perfectionism.
  • A desire for quick results from dieting.

Physical & Psychological Effects of Anorexia Nervosa & Bulimia


  • Loss of approximately 30% or more of body weight leading to emaciation
  • Irregular or complete loss of menstrual period
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Growth of fine body hair
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Death.


  • Abdominal pain due to overeating
  • Heart and kidney problems
  • Excessive constipation
  • Digestive problems
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • A tear in the esophagus
  • Diarrhea
  • Feelings of depression, guilt, self-disgust and loss of control
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Frequent weight fluctuation

You may need help if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Loss of body weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Preoccupation with food, calories, nutrition, cooking
  • Over concern with body weight and shape
  • Denial of hunger
  • Excessive over-exercising
  • Loss of menstruation
  • Binge eating followed by purging in the form of vomiting, abuse of weight reducing substances, excessive exercising
  • Feeling out of control, guilty, or ashamed about eating
  • Depressive moods
  • Overeating in reaction to emotional stress
  • Night eating

Ways to Help

  • Talk openly and freely and ask direct questions about the person's eating patterns.
  • Listen to what is said and treat it seriously. Do not add to the person's guilt by nagging about eating/not eating or gossiping about the person among your friends.
  • Encourage the person to seek professional help.