Dieting, seeking comfort in food, and concern about weight are very common practices and concerns, among females in particular. Eating habits become problematic when behaviors become addictive, meaning that the person cannot stop restricting or eating, and thoughts become preoccupations.
In addition to being cultural by-products, eating disorders are also psychological problems and serious health conditions. People with eating disorders eat or starve or purge in an effort to cope with feelings that they cannot sufficiently understand or directly communicate. Most people with eating disorders also struggle with feelings of inadequacy and unrealistic self-expectations. Eating disorders cause physical consequences ranging from thinning hair to anemia to life-threatening conditions such as electrolyte imbalance. They require treatment, which always consists of psychotherapy and medical monitoring and which may also involve nutritional counseling and medication.
The process of giving up an eating disorder is sometimes lengthy and often emotionally difficult; however, recovery and the restoration of emotional and physical wellbeing are possible. Although signs of difficulty may be apparent to friends and family, many people with eating disorders are reluctant to avow the existence of a problem and to seek treatment. Nevertheless, persistent, patient expressions of concern and provision of information about treatment resources can be helpful.
Remember that you do not need to be the food police. Nor do you need to diagnose another person. However, if you are concerned about a friend’s eating, follow these general guidelines:
A person who collapses, faints, or cannot walk due to weakness. If this is the case, call Health Services at extension 4-2091. If it is after hours, call security at extension 4-3362 and have her taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, which is at 113th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
There is a limit to how much you can affect another person’s behavior.A person who has an eating disorder will not be able to significantly change her eating until she accepts the existence and seriousness of her disorder.