Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is defined as any condition characterized by disturbed eating patterns that affect a person’s physical and mental health. The most common specific forms of eating disorders are bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Bulimia is a disorder characterized by binge eating and purging, or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time, followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed, typically by vomiting, taking a laxative, and/or excessive exercise. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extreme food restriction and an irrational fear of gaining weight. It is estimated that 25% of students may suffer from disordered patterns of eating.

Symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Going to the bathroom after eating or during meals
  • Sores, scars or calluses on the knuckles
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Dry skin
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Damaged teeth and gums or sores in the throat and mouth
  • Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)

Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Abnormally thin appearance
  • An obsession with food and being thin
  • Exercising excessively
  • Fatigue, dizziness, or fainting
  • Frequently being cold
  • Low blood pressure
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
  • Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Depression


It is important to seek a medical evaluation if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above. Or, if you recognize these symptoms in a friend, it is important to encourage him/her to seek treatment. Because eating disorders are complex psychological, sociological and biological diseases, they can usually only be cured with professional treatment. Treatment options include:

  • Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy–helps patients to exchange unhealthy habits for new, healthy ones
  • Nutrition education
  • Medications, such as anti-depressant help with symptoms of depression which tend to accompany eating disorders

Campus Resources

Sonja Lillrank, M.D., Ph.D
Assistant Director for Psychiatry, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)
One Darnall Hall
(202), 687-6895,

Carol Day, R.N., M.S.N., C.N.S
Director, Health Education Services
1437 37th St. NW, Poulton Hall Suite 101
(202) 687-8942,

Leanne Lash, M.D.
Physician, Student Health Center
Darnall Hall, Ground Floor
(202) 687-2200,