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Common Ailments

Eating Disorders

What are eating disorders?
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are known as eating disorders. They affect primarily young women whose preoccupation with being thin and distorted body image lead to extreme eating behaviors. Specifically:

- Anorexia is self-induced starvation used to attain thinness, often accompanied by excessive exercise.
- Bulimia is characterized by a craving for food, followed by binge eating and then purging (via vomiting, overuse of laxatives, diet pills or periods of starvation).

Both eating disorders are linked with (usually unsuccessful) attempts to solve personal problems.

Why are they health problems?
Anorexia and bulimia are potentially dangerous to one's physical and mental health. Problems include:

- reflex vomiting
- loss of, or irregular, periods
- constipation and/or diarrhea
- tooth decay
- change in hair, skin, and nail texture towards dryness
- stomach pains
- disturbed sleep and concentration
- malnutrition
- cold intolerance

In most cases, although anorexics and bulimics need outside help, they don't seek appropriate treatment.

What are the symptoms?
The following symptom checklist can be used to help determine whether you suffer from an eating disorder:

- Do you feel you need to excel in grades, sports or staying thin?
- Do you feel that weight is the one aspect of your life that you can control?
- Are you an extreme dieter, sometimes resorting to laxatives, diet pills, or diuretics?
- Do you eat large amounts of food when upset?
- Do you ever induce vomiting after eating?
- Does your weight fluctuate by ten pounds or more?
- Do you feel like you're fat, even though others say that you are thin or okay?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Are you often depressed or unhappy with yourself?

If you answer "yes" to a majority of these questions, seek professional help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

How can you help?
If you think someone you care about has an eating disorder, you can help by:

- listening with understanding.
- expressing your support and concern.
- avoiding extreme responses (i.e., ignoring, blaming, rejecting, or impatience).
- being alert to any physical problem; it may be a less threatening reason for encouraging professional help.
- offering to accompany her on the first visit to a health professional.
- encouraging her to seek help but allowing her to make the final decision.
- understanding that you are not responsible for solving her problem.

Where can you find help?

Treatment and Support Services
On Grounds - no cost to UVA students
Student Health
General Medicine (434) 982-3915 Medical Management
Student Mental Health* (434) 924-5556 Individual & Group** Therapy
Health Promotion (434) 924-1509 Education materials and handouts available.
Counseling Center* (434) 243-5150 Individual & Group** Therapy
Women's Center (434) 982-2361 Group Support**
Ainsworth Clinic (434) 924-0645 Individual Therapy
Overeaters Anonymous (434) 972-1703 12-Step Support Group
Off-Grounds, fee for service
Center for Clinical Psych (434) 924-7034 Individual Therapy
Nutrition Clinic (434) 925-9891 Nutrition Counseling
Private practitioners
* Some students may be referred to private care providers following initial consultation. For more
information about off-Grounds resources, private referrals are available.
** Screening for these groups is required.


Screening and Referral
Student Health
General Medicine (434) 982-1509
Gynecology (434) 924-2773

Education and Prevention Services
Student Health
Health Promotion (434) 924-1509 Education materials and handouts available.
Peer Health Educators (434) 924-1509 Provide workshops on request
Counseling Center (434) 924-5150 Group Presentations

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