University of Southern Indiana

Eating Disorders

Istock 000016387853XsmallDo You…

Weigh yourself multiple times a day?

Skip at least one meal a day?

Count calories and fat grams every time you eat?

Exercise “a lot” because you have to and not because you want to?


Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are characterized by extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food. Eating disorders involve serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for all genders.

ANOREXIA is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
Symptoms include:

  • Preoccupation with weight, food (e.g., calories & fat grams), and dieting
  • Fear about gaining weight
  • Refusal to eat certain foods or restricting large categories of foods (e.g., no sugars or carbohydrates)
  • Frequent comments that one feels “fat” despite excessive weight loss
  • Keeping an excessively regimented exercise routine
  • Denying when one feels hungry
  • Frequently avoiding meals or situations involving food
  • Withdrawal from social activities
Potential health consequences:
  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which means that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
  • Dry skin/hair and hair loss are common
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair called "lanugo" all over the body, including the face. This is the body’s effort in an effort to keep
    itself warm
  • Premature death

is characterized by a cycle of binge eating followed by purging. Bulimia includes eating large amounts of food in a short period of time (more than most people would eat in one meal), then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative use, over-exercising, or other means.

Symptoms include:

  • Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging
  • Feeling out of control during a binge
  • Eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness during a binge
  • Purging after a binge, typically by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diet pills and/or diuretics, excessive exercise, or fasting
  • Frequent dieting
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape

People who have bulimia often do not appear underweight, but they do often exhibit other signs of an eating disorder. Recovery for bulimia is often most effective the earlier a person seeks treatment…so it is important that everyone is aware of the warning signs.

Warning Signs:

  • Disappearance of large amounts of food
  • Finding lots of wrappers and/or empty containers
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
  • Signs of vomiting or packages of laxatives or diuretics
  • Keeping an excessively regimented exercise routine, despite weather or illness
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks and/or jaw
  • Calluses on hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth
  • Rituals that allow time for bingeing and purging
  • Withdrawal from social activities

Potential Health Consequences:

  • Purging can lead to dehydration and the loss of potassium and sodium. Electolyte imbalances can result, which in turn may lead to an irregular heart rate, heart failure, and even death
  • A gastric rupture may occur during periods of purging
  • Frequent and repeated vomiting may lead to inflammation and/or rupture of the esophagus
  • The frequent and repeated release of stomach acids through vomiting can result in tooth staining and tooth decay
  • Frequent use of laxatives can result in chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation
  • Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis

R is characterized by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred.


  • Frequent episodes of eating large quantities of food in short periods of time
  • Feeling “out of control” over eating behavior
  • Feeling depressed, guilty, ashamed, or disgusted by the eating behaviors
  • Frequently eating when not hungry
  • Eating alone due to feelings of embarrassment or shame over the amount of food eaten

Potential Health Consequences:

  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease due to elevated triglyceride levels
  • Secondary diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Musculoskeletal problems

can include some combination of the signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia and/or binge eating. These behaviors are harmful and negatively impact daily life.


Disordered Eating

Disordered eating describes irregular patterns of eating and it occurs when an individual has an unhealthy relationship with food. These eating habits may eventually result in psychological and/or physical harm, yet do not meet the criteria of an eating disorder.

Examples of Disordered Eating:

  • Crash dieting, fasting, or living on tiny amounts of food in order to lose weight in a short period of time
  • Yo-Yo Dieting (gaining and losing weight repeatedly due to “on-and-off” dieting)
  • Preoccupation with eating only “healthy” foods
  • Chewing food and spitting it out instead of swallowing it
  • Preoccupation with calorie counting or fat counting


Getting Help

All eating disorders require professional help. If you would like to speak to a counselor about your situation or need a referral for treatment, please contact the USI Counseling Center at 812-464-1867.


Online Resources


The Counseling Center is a SAFE ZONE for individuals of all ethnicities, abilities, religions, sexual orientations, physical appearances/sizes, and gender identities.

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