Self Help- Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are often characterized by an intense fear of becoming overweight and an inaccurate image of one's own body. Eating disorders are very complicated and, like drug and substance abuse, are a symptom or a signal that something is wrong. It is not the eating problem per se that must be treated, but a whole set of underlying issues that manifest in a self-destructive behavior.


Involves controlling body weight by severely limiting the amount of food consumed.


Involves the ingestion of food (usually large amounts that are high in calories) followed by a purging behavior, such as vomiting, the use of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, and/or excessive exercise..

Potential Underlying Issues:

 Those likely to have an eating disorder may experience: 

  • A need to be in control 
  • A preoccupation with the need to please others
  • A distorted body image 
  • An insecurity with self and others 
  • An insecurity with appearance and competency 
  • A striving for mastery and achievement 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • A set of rigid standards 
  • A deep need to be loved along with the fear of being loved and nurtured 
  • A denial or a lack of awareness of body needs such as hunger 
  • A fear of rejection 
  • A fear of sexuality and intimacy 
  • A fear of feeling deep emotions 
  • An addiction to attaining perfection

Effects on the Body Short Term: 

  • Dizziness, weakness, and moodiness 
  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns 
  • Swollen glands 
  • Weight loss or weight fluctuation 
  • Irregular or no menstruation 
  • Loss of hair and nail quality 
  • Skin rash and dry skin Long Term: (A) anorexia (B) Bulimia 
  • Extreme weight loss (A) 
  • Stomach and esophagus pain (B) 
  • Tooth decay due to stomach acid from vomiting (B) 
  • Constipation or loss of normal bowel functions (A&B) 
  • Malnutrition (A&B) 
  • Decreased body temperature (A&B) 
  • Weakened immune system (A&B) 
  • Loss of muscle mass and strength (A&B) 
  • Electrolyte imbalance (A&B) 
  • Death (A&B)

How To Help A Friend Do Not: 

  • Say that the person is crazy 
  • Blame the person 
  • Gossip about the person 
  • Follow the person around checking eating or purging behavior 
  • Ignore the person 
  • Reject the person 
  • Tell them to quit this ridiculous behavior 
  • Feel compelled to solve their problem 
  • Comment on the person's weight, regardless of whether the change is positive or negative


  • Listen with understanding 
  • Appreciate when they are being open and honest if they discuss the problem with you 
  • Be open and honest with them about your own struggles and lack of understanding about eating disorders 
  • Be supportive and available 
  • Give the person hope that with professional help and patience he/she can free themselves from their disorder.

How To Help Yourself:

ADMIT to yourself that you have an eating disorder and that you need help.

TELL someone you trust about your eating disorder.

LEARN that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. 

  • About the cause and effects of eating disorders through literature
  • To recognize your needs and be open about them to yourself and others
  • To recognize how you may be vulnerable for an eating disorder

CHANGE Consider seeking professional help. Be patient and stick with it.

LIVE Participate in activities you enjoy. 

  • Help others; give of yourself
  • Be receptive to the opportunities life has to offer
  • Laugh, play, work, and strive for balance

For similar information, please see our Personal Counseling resources.