Eating Disorders                                                   To Home Page


April 1999

By Eileen Beirich, M.F.C.C.

A beginning assessment for eating disorders generally includes the following characteristics.

  1. A person often speaks about themselves in a manner that sounds like they don't like who they are. Low self esteem may reflect an attitude in which the person believes that self-worth is dependent on low weight.
  2. The person seems dependent on others for approval instead of knowing and trusting that he/she is OK from inside the self.
  3. One might notice a constant concern with weight and body image.
  4. An eating disordered woman can lose her menstrual period.
A person with bulimia can be self indulgent and have a difficult time delaying gratification in many areas. She/he can be secretive and dishonest by lying, stealing food and money. There may be tooth damage and gum disease. It is not unusual for a bulimic to be involved with drug and alcohol abuse,. There may also be abuse of laxatives, diuretics and exercise. Repeated vomiting can cause mood swings due to the chemical imbalance of purging. Bulimia encourages isolation. Isolation encourages bulimia.

Anorexia incorporates low self esteem too. The person seems to have a misperception of body size, of hunger, satiety and other bodily sensations. She/he may be an over achiever, be compliant and exhibit unusual amounts of anxiety causing difficulty in decision making. It is not unusual for an anorexic to want to cook and control the family's eating while restricting her/himself about food intake. The person may isolate more and more, eating alone and being moody and hostile if the "aloneness" is commented on by family members.

What to Do
If a person notices someone they know or love having symptoms of an eating disorder, it is a good idea to tell that person about your concerns. The person should be encouraged to see a primary physician first to assess their physical condition. Then the doctor may refer the patient to a mental health professional who is a specialist working with eating disorders. Psychotherapy helps the patient define feelings and organize behavior toward resuming normal eating habits and activities. A registered dietitian is consulted to manage the food plan portion of the person's recovery. Should medication be needed for mood swings, a psychiatrist can be consulted. The approach to recovery is a team effort beginning with the patient and the family and incorporating several healthcare professionals.

Eating disorders are family problems. They affect the whole family. So including family members can be very helpful. Family therapy and collateral sessions are often included in the treatment plan.

Recovery, for the person affected, involves owning the symptoms and redefining them in an informative and healing way. It involves learning to control obsessive thoughts about food and focusing instead on the conflicts, fears, and insecurities that underlie the eating disorder.

Eileen Beirich recommends these books as informative on eating disorders:

HUNGER PAINS, The Modern Woman's Tragic Quest for Thinness
by Mary Pipher, PhD 1995,

by Joan Jacobs Brumberg 1997

REVIVING OPHELIA, Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls
by Mary Pipher, Ph.D. 1997



bulletANRED: Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders ***
bulletEating Disorders - ***
bulletEating Disorders Awareness and Prevention ***
bulletMirror-Mirror: Eating Disorders ***
bulletNational Eating Disorder Information Centre ***
bulletSomething Fishy's Eating Disorder Site ***


bulletAnorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Association (ANAB) - Kingston, Ontario, Canada **
bulletCenter for Eating Disorders - St. Joseph Medical Center **
bulletEating Disorder Referral and Information Center **
bulletEating Disorder Association (U.K.) **'s Eating Disorders Links
bulletYahoo's Eating Disorders Links

Eating disorder Referral and Information Center