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Eating Disorders

Food and eating are a necessary and enjoyable part of life.  For some individuals, food can become a source of distress or a maladaptive source of comfort.  People develop issues with food and eating for a number of reasons, such as trauma, desires for acceptance, issues with sensory processing (i.e., being a “picky eater”), gender dysphoria, or desires to fit in when living in a different country (acculturative distress).  Contrary to stereotypes, disordered eating impacts people of all sizes, races/ethnicities, and genders.  Disordered eating can cause significant problems with relationships, work, and academic performance. 

Signs of Eating Disorders


  • Unusual eating habits, refusal to eat, or avoidance of events that center around food
  • 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
  • Feeling a lack of control while eating
  • Abuse of laxatives or diuretics
  • Secretive behavior regarding eating habits
  • Depression
  • Denial of the problem

Binge Eating

  • Eating large amounts of food in one sitting
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Feeling a lack of control while eating
  • Eating alone or in secret due to embarrassment

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

  • Avoidance due to issues with the texture, smell, or sensory characteristics of food
  • Fear of the consequences of eating (i.e., choking)
  • Apathy about food or eating
  • The avoidance of food is not due to the presence of another eating disorder
  • Negative body image is not associated with the food avoidance


  • Obsession with food being “healthy”
  • Refusal to eat entire categories of food (i.e., carbs, gluten, dairy) with no diagnosable medical reason for avoidance of those foods
  • Being overly critical of the food choices of others
  • Negative body image may not be associated with the food avoidance

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

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Treatment for an eating disorder varies based on the root cause of the problem.  While everyone in the U.S. is subject to the relentless marketing of the $72 Billion diet industry, there are other factors that contribute to the development of disordered eating.  Common issues that are addressed during eating disorder recovery include reducing perfectionism and rule-governed behavior, learning skills for coping with anxiety, improving interpersonal skills, addressing trauma, and learning how to regulate emotions.

Online Resources on Eating Disorders

The National Eating Disorders Association and the National Association of Anorexia and Related Disorders offer informational resources and free support groups.

Eating Disorders Anonymous is a supportive community of people (both in person and online) recovering from eating disorders.

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness and The Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center allow you to search for appropriate professionals to help with disordered eating.

The Association for Size Diversity and Health has information about Health at Every Size.

Nalgona Positivity Pride is an in-community eating disorders and body-positive organization dedicated to creating visibility and resources for Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color (BICC).

FEDUP is an organization whose mission is to make visible, interrupt, and undermine the disproportionately high incidence of eating disorders in trans and gender diverse individuals through radical community healing, recovery institution reform, research, empowerment, and education.

Project HEAL is an organization that helps individuals struggling with eating disorders break down barriers to care through advocacy work, scholarships, and providing assistance navigating insurance benefits.