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Eating Disorders: Commonly Asked Questions

 

What are some warning signs of eating disorders?

I think I have an eating disorder. What should I do?

I think my friend has an eating disorder. How should I approach him or her?

My friend's eating disorder is taking its toll on my emotional stability. What should I do?

I think I have an eating disorder but all of my friends tell me men don't get them. What's wrong?

 


Q: What are some warning signs of eating disorders?

People with an eating disorder have a preoccupation with weight, food, calories and dieting - so much so that it consistently intrudes on conversations and interferes with other activities. People affected with this disorder may go through excessive, rigid exercise regimens despite weather conditions, fatigue, illness, and injury in a fixated need to "burn off" calories taken in. Also, they may withdraw from or avoid activities because of weight and shape concerns. These concerns can lead to anxieties about being fat that do not diminish as weight is lost. Evidence of self-induced vomiting may be overlooked as it is often secretive, and the person will go to great lengths to clean up smells or messes. Those who force themselves to vomit may rush immediately to the bathroom after a meal and return with bloodshot eyes, and after long periods of doing so, develop swelling of the submandibular glands to yield a "chipmunk" facial appearance.

Also, people with eating disorders may leave behind evidence (wrappers, advertisements, coupons) of use of laxatives, diuretics, purgatives, enemas or emetics. People who binge may hoard and/or steal food, or consume large amounts of food inconsistent with the person's weight. People who binge and purge may go through phases where there are weight fluctuations of ten or more pounds. Other physically obvious signs are paleness and complaints of lightheadedness or disequilibrium, which is not accounted for by other medical conditions.

Women may experience problems with menstruation even as early as the beginning stages of a developing eating disorder.

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Q: I think I have an eating disorder. What should I do?

You should set up an appointment to speak with a counselor at the Counseling and Wellness Center immediately, unless you find yourself in a medical emergency, in which case you should dial 911. You may call us at 860-832-1945 to setup an appointment, or visit us in person in Marcus White Hall, Room 205. If you have concerns about confidentiality, cost of services or related questions, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions section. You may also take our Eating Disorder Self-Assessment and bring this with you to your first appointment so that your counselor will be better equipped to help you.

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Q: I think my friend has an eating disorder. How should I approach him or her?

You should first identify your care and concern for this person. Addressing your concerns may seem like a personal attack because your friend may insist that "nothing's wrong". You may want to find a quiet, comfortable place where the two of you are alone and may discuss this privately. It's not helpful to coax, bribe or yell at your friend to change his or her eating habits or way of thinking. They need to take charge of their own problem and recovery, but you can't do it for them. Bringing it out into the open and offering resources is your responsibility, but your friend will have to want your help in the first place.

It may be difficult for some, but resist the urge to make critical comments or respond aggressively to personal attacks. If you bring up issues about your friend's height, food intake, or exercise habits, you must do so in a nonjudgmental caring way. This way, it lets your friend know that this issue concerns you. Otherwise, leave it alone. Do not take it personally if your friend responds with hostility - they have a problem and should seek help for their own personal well-being. The important part is letting your friend know that you care.

If you believe your friend is in danger, go immediately to an advisor, R.A., counselor, or a health professional on or off campus. At CCSU, Health Services and the Counseling and Wellness Center are equipped to handle such situations. However, in any health emergency, always dial 911. For help in a situation such as this, please call the Counseling and Wellness Center at 860-832-1945 for information.

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Q: My friend's eating disorder is taking a toll on me. What should I do?

Be patient. Eating disorders can be a long-term problem, and you cannot expect overnight recovery even if a person is in therapy. You can seek outside help for yourself by setting up an appointment with one of our counselors, who offer a nonjudgmental, listening ear. Free community resources are also widely available.

Be aware that low self-esteem is often a problem for those with eating disorders. Be careful not to make comparisons. Learn everything you can about eating disorders. The more you know, the more you can understand. Understanding is a primary key to coping. Passing the material on to the person you are concerned about may benefit them as well.

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Q: I think I have an eating disorder but all my friends say men don't get them. What's wrong?

Although eating disorders are much more common in women, of every 100 individuals with eating disorders who enter treatment, 5 to 10 of them are men. Also, men may constitute up to as many as 25% of those exhibiting binge-eating disorders. Unfortunately, medical professionals, educators, and related personnel frequently overlook eating disorders in men due to the greater frequency in women. The signs and the symptoms of all eating disorders are similar regardless of gender. Eating disorders do not discriminate - they affect people of all ages, genders, racial backgrounds... you name it.

As with females, men who are engaged in athletic activities are at a higher risk for eating disorders. Men are now experiencing more social pressure regarding appearance than they ever have in the past. This may contribute to an increase in clinical eating disorders in men. Eating disorders in men may be ignored at a younger age because parents are less likely to pursue treatment for their son than they are for their daughter. Due to the social stigma, men are far less likely to pursue treatment because eating disorders may be construed by some as "a woman's problem".

The bottom line is that eating disorders are just as dangerous for men as they are for women. If you have concerns or general questions, please call us at 860-832-1945 to set up an appointment with a counselor. There is no room for pride or shame when your mental and physical health are at stake.

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