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Information about Eating Disorders

The National Eating Disorders Association (n.d.) describes eating disorders as “real, complex, bio-psycho-social diseases that can have serious consequences for health, productivity and relationships. They are not fads, phases, or lifestyle choices. The most common eating disorders are

Other eating disorders include

People struggling with an eating disorder often become obsessed with food, body image, and/or weight. These disorders can be life-threatening if not recognized and treated appropriately. The earlier a person receives treatment, the greater the likelihood of full recovery.”

To learn more about the eating disorders listed above, click on the name of the disorder you wish to learn more about or continue reading for brief information about the most common eating disorders.

How are eating disorders treated?

Click here to learn about treatment for eating disorders.

*The following information about signs and symptoms for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder and treatment was obtained from the National Institute of Mental Health’s (2018) brochure on eating disorders.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

An unhealthy fixation on thinness, distorted body image and fears of gaining weight, and results in disturbed eating behaviors and emaciation. People with anorexia nervosa avoid food, severely restrict food, or eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Even when they are dangerously underweight, they may see themselves as overweight.

What are some signs and symptoms of anorexia?


  • Starvation and restriction of food
  • Obsession with food and calories
  • Obsessive or excessive exercise
  • Purging by vomiting, or using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics
  • Eating junk food, particularly candy, and drinking a lot of coffee or tea, and/or smoking
  • Unusual eating habits
  • Excuses to avoid eating (e.g. “I already ate”)
  • Hiding food they claimed to have eaten
  • Suddenly becoming vegan or vegetarian to avoid certain foods
  • Social withdrawal
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide weight loss and keep warm


  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Always being cold
  • Irregular menstruation or amenorrhea (loss of period)
  • Fainting spells, dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Pale complexion

*Anorexia can be fatal.

*The following information about signs and symptoms for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder and treatment was obtained from the National Institute of Mental Health’s (2018) brochure on eating disorders.

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Involves recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling of a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behaviors that compensate for the overeating, such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike those with anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa may maintain a normal weight or be overweight.

What are some signs and symptoms of bulimia?


  • Binge eating
  • Secretive eating
  • Going to the bathroom after meals
  • Vomiting
  • Laxative, diet pill, or diuretic abuse
  • Intense exercise regimen
  • Fasting


  • Red, puffy face and watery eyes (from vomiting)
  • Weight fluctuations (usually between 10 and 15 lbs.)
  • Swollen glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Tooth decay
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Constipation (from overuse of laxatives)
  • Severe dehydration from purging
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals), which can lead to stroke or heart attack

*The following information about signs and symptoms for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder and treatment was obtained from the National Institute of Mental Health’s (2018) brochure on eating disorders.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Characterized by constant cravings that occur any time of day and result in binge eating. Often associated with poor body image and low self-esteem. Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia, but doesn’t involve purging, or other compensatory behavior. Patients feel out of control as they ingest large quantities of food without regard to hunger or fullness.

What are some signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder?


  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as a 2-hour period
  • Eating fast during binge episodes
  • Eating when full or not hungry
  • Hiding food
  • Frequently dieting
  • Secretive eating patterns (e.g. eating alone)
  • Avoidance of social situations where food will be present
  • Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about eating


  • Weight gain
  • Fluctuations in weight

PLU now offers a free, on-line screening for Eating Disorders for PLU students.  Through this screening, students can learn to understand their own risks and how and where to access health and counseling services at PLU.  The goal is to educate and to promote prevention, early detection, and treatment referral.

After you complete the screening, you may choose to contact your primary care provider or the PLU Health Center for further assessment.  If you have additional questions, please call the Health Center at 253-535-7838.

An eating disorder can have a significant impact on your oral health. Dental hygiene and regular dental care are critically important in helping to maintain a healthy mouth and teeth and overall health and well-being.

Click here* for information about maintaining your oral hygiene and the effect of different eating disorders on the mouth and teeth.

Contact the Health Center if you need assistance with finding local dental care.

*Disclaimer: The Health Center in providing this resource is not an endorsement for the company.

Campus Resources

PLU Counseling, Health & Wellness Services

  • Provides screening, assessment, and referral for intervention to PLU students who are struggling with eating concerns.

For more information on our services click here or call 253-535-7838.

Lute Telehealth

  • Free on-line (virtual) or phone-based Medical and Mental Health services – 24/7/365 for all enrolled PLU students.
  • Health Coaching is available to help students stay on track with nutrition, exercise, stress management and weight loss for a holistic wellness approach.
    • Health Coaching can address: Nutrition, Meal planning, Healthy eating behaviors, Healthy body image, Weight management and more.
    • Virtual visits can be scheduled with a nutrition specialist to help prevent chronic diseases by making healthier choices.

For more information or to schedule a visit click here: Lute Telehealth or call toll-free at 833-484-6359.  Free account activation required.

Additional Support in Urgent Situations

  • For urgent medical issues after business hours, contact the MultiCare Consulting Nurse Line at 253-792-6410
  • For urgent mental health support (including weekends and holidays), contact the Counseling Center Crisis Line at 253-535-7075.  You will be connected with a crisis line professional who works closely with our office.  PLU Residence Hall staff are also encouraged to utilize this line to assist residents needing urgent mental health support after hours.
  • For EMERGENCIES (an immediate threat of harm to yourself or someone else), call PLU Campus Safety at 253-535-7911 or 911 immediately.

Local Resources

Center for Discovery:

The Emily Program

  • Locations: South Sound and Seattle


The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA):

“The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. NEDA supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care.”

Eating Disorder Hope:

“Eating Disorder Hope’s mission is to offer hope, information, and resources to individual eating disorder sufferers, their family members, and treatment providers.”

National Institute of Medicine:

Resources for Professionals

Academy for Eating Disorders:

Eating Disorder Hope:

Eating Disorder Hope proudly hosts social media events such as Facebook Live Events, Virtual Conferences, Continuing Education Credit Webinars, etc. to support the eating disorder community, educate and empower professionals, and contribute to eating disorder advocacy and awareness.

National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d.). What is an eating disorder? [Brochure]. New York, NY: Author National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Eating disorders: About more than food [Brochure]. Bethesda, MD: Author