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

Mary Quigley
Eating Disorder Specialist, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)
One Darnall Hall
(202) 687-6980

Carol Day
Director, Health Education Services
1437 37th St NW, Poulton Hall Suite 101
(202) 687-8942

Roanna Kessler, M.D.
Physician, Student Health Center
Darnall Hall Ground Floor
(202) 687-5484