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photo of person standing on scalesAn eating disorder is a serious medical illness.  Eating disorders can be characterized by limiting food take or overeating.  Sometimes exercise, vomiting, laxatives, or diuretics are used to eliminate food and calories from the body. 

A common misconception is that everyone with an eating disorder is visibly skinny or at a low body weight. Eating disorders are generally kept secret, and people may deny that they have a problem.

The main types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia
  • Binge eating
  • Disordered eating, which can be a precursor to a full-blown eating disorder, characterized by ritualistic eating habits, body image issues, and changes in eating habits that are less severe than an eating disorder

What are the signs and symptoms of eating disorders?

Look for these signs and symptoms:

  • Dramatic and fast weight loss
  • Calorie counting and weight preoccupation
  • Overexercising, or engaging in strenuous physical activity to the point that it is unsafe and unhealthy
  • Rituals around food and eating (i.e., taking tiny bites, ignoring certain food groups, rearranging food on the plate, skipping certain meals altogether, or pretending to eat the food)
  • Using laxatives, diuretics, ipecac syrup, enemas, or smoking to purge food and/or suppress appetite
  • Wearing big or baggy clothes or dressing in layers to hide body shape and/or weight loss
  • Making frequent trips to the bathroom immediately following meals 
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Fearing a loss of control when eating, and/or inability to stop eating once started

What are the causes of eating disorders?

There are many factors that may contribute to developing an eating disorder, including:

  • Personal characteristics like low-self esteem and poor self-image
  • Stress, leading to a need to be in control of something
  • Exposure to friends and family members that criticize weight and body image
  • Family members that have had, or currently have an eating disorder
  • Social pressures and messages equating beauty with thinness

Treatment

Eating disorders can become chronic and life-threatening if not identified or treated in their early stages.  Treatment of eating disorders is often tailored specifically on an individual basis.  Most treatments involve forms of psychotherapy and psychological counseling in connection with nutrition and medical support.  Counseling, medical, and nutritional help should always be given by a health care or mental health professional.  Relapse rates from eating disorders are estimated at 30 – 50%, so long term monitoring and treatment is important.

Self-care/Prevention

To help prevent eating disorders in yourself and others, you can:

  • Educate yourself about eating disorders including their symptoms and causes
  • Do not oversimplify or downplay eating disorders as an addiction to food, a way for an individual to have attention drawn to themselves, or only a women's issue
  • Do not put yourself in situations or spend time with individuals that make you feel uncomfortable about your body or body image
  • Understand social and psychological factors in society that influence eating disorders such as media, Hollywood, etc.

When should I see a health care provider?

It is important that treatment for eating disorders be provided by a health care or mental health provider.  If you are constantly preoccupied with food, body image, or exercise, consider contacting a health care provider.

Helping someone who may have an eating disorder

Helping a friend or loved one with an eating disorder can save a life. You can help by engaging them in an open dialogue with the goal of seeking help from a health care provider.  When deciding whether to discuss these issues with someone, think about your relationship to the individual.  Does he or she consider you a close, trusted, and appropriate person to confront them about this issue?  Before talking to your friend, consider these suggestions:

  • Educate yourself on eating disorders and available resources beforehand
  • Choose a time free of distractions and divorced from the issue at hand (ie. not during meals or exercise)
  • Avoid criticism and judgment.  State what you have observed that has led you to believe they may have an eating disorder
  • Be prepared for a variety of reactions such as crying, anger, and denial.  Do not take these reactions personally
  • If the individual does not want to seek help and/or continues to deny an eating disorder, explain that you are still concerned and are hoping, and available to talk to them about the issue again

Additional resources

UW resources

Online resources

 

Authored by:  Peer Health Educator
Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Mental Health Clinic staff, January 2014


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What is ADD/ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD, is a condition that makes it difficult for people to control their attention and behavior. It usually appears before age seven. ADHD symptoms may create difficulties getting work done. Symptoms may also affect relationships with friends and family.

It is common to have a hard time focusing on schoolwork sometimes, or to occasionally be impulsive in decision making. These symptoms by themselves do not mean that you have ADHD. 

What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD?

Although symptoms of the disorder vary by individual and can range from mild to severe, some of the most common signs are:

  • Difficulty focusing in a variety of situations
  • Problems getting organized
  • Not listening when spoken to
  • Having trouble sitting still or waiting in line
  • Constantly interrupting others

Other behaviors related to ADHD are chronic lateness and forgetfulness, anxiety, difficulty organizing, difficulty controlling anger, impulsiveness, and substance abuse.

People with ADHD are easily distracted by sights and sounds in their environment, cannot concentrate for long periods of time, are often restless, have a tendency to daydream, and may be slow to complete tasks.

Who is affected by ADHD?

Studies show that men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with ADHD, and that between 2 and 6% of the adult population has the disorder. At least one student in every classroom in the United States has been diagnosed with ADHD.

How can I tell if I have ADHD?

ADHD should only be diagnosed by an experienced and qualified professional such as an educational psychologist or a psychiatrist. Since the symptoms of ADHD are common to may other conditions, you should never self-diagnose. Instead, seek a comprehensive evaluation from a qualified professional. A comprehensive evaluation may include exploring personal and family medical history, and psychological testing.  Hall Health is unable to perform ADD/ADHD evaluations.  If you are in need of an evaluation, please see our page on ADD/ADHD Testing and Medication Resources.

Additional information

More information about ADHD can be found at:

Authored by: Hall Health Mental Health Clinic

Reviewed by: Hall Health Mental Health Clinic and Hall Health Primary Care Clinic (GLC), April 2014


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