Eating Disorders

Many people obsess about changing the shape of their bodies. Society conditions us to believe certain things about our bodies. For example, we may believe that the presence of body fat indicates weakness, or that if we control of our bodies, we’re in control of our lives. Because body image and self-esteem are very closely linked, poor body image can interfere with your relationships and distort your sense of self.

People with eating disorders often use food and the control of food to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem overwhelming. For some, dieting, bingeing, and purging may begin as a way to cope with painful emotions and to feel in control of one’s life, but ultimately, these behaviors will damage a person’s physical and emotional health, self-esteem, and sense of competence and control. Scientists are currently researching possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders. In some individuals with eating disorders, chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite, and digestion are imbalanced. However, scientists do not yet understand the underlying causes of such imbalances.

If you feel you may have an eating disorder, you may wish to complete the Counseling Center’s free online screening for eating disorders. If you are ready to seek professional assistance for an eating disorder, please contact the Counseling Center at 919.515.2423 or visit the Counseling Center in person to set up an appointment. We have clinicians with specific expertise in addressing eating concerns, and an Eating Disorder Treatment Team to make sure best practices are being observed in out treatment and referrals.

Signs of Eating Disorders


  • Unusual eating habits or refusal to eat
  • Excessive weight loss (weight less than 85% of expected)
  • Extreme physical activity
  • Hair, nail, or skin problems
  • Depression and low self-esteem
  • Denial of the problem


  • Purchasing large quantities of food
  • Abuse of laxatives or diuretics
  • Secretive behavior regarding eating habits
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Depression
  • Denial of the problem

Compulsive Overeating (Binge Eating Disorder)

  • Eating compulsively without purging
  • Becoming overweight
  • Overeating throughout the day or consuming large amounts of food during binges

Factors that Can Contribute to Eating Disorders

Psychological Factors

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life
  • Depression, anxiety, anger, or loneliness

Interpersonal Factors

  • Troubled family and personal relationships
  • Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings
  • History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight
  • History of physical or sexual abuse

Social Factors

  • Cultural pressures that glorify thinness and place value on obtaining the perfect body
  • Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes
  • Cultural norms that value physical appearance over inner qualities and strengths

Online Resources on Eating Disorders