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Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) are psychiatric diagnoses that involve a significant disturbance in the perception of body shape and weight which leads to an abnormal or obsessive relationship with food, exercise, and self-image. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by the refusal to maintain minimally normal weight for age and height (weight less than 85% of expected); an intense fear of gaining weight; a denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight; and, in postmenarcheal women, an absence of monthly menstruation. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate behaviors to prevent weight gain such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, and enemas; fasting; and/or excessive exercise.

Signs of Problem eating include:

  • Preoccupation with body image, food, calories, or weight
  • Fear of loss of control over eating
  • Skipping meals
  • Rituals around food preparation or eating
  • Decreased variety of foods eaten
  • Self-induced vomiting, "purging"
  • Preoccupation with exercise
  • Abuse of laxatives, water pills, or diet pills
  • Change in or absence of menstrual periods
  • Consuming large amounts of food at one time, "bingeing"
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Secrecy with eating behavior

Additional information and resources on Eating Disorders and Body Image issues


If you think that a student may be struggling with an Eating Disorder:


  • When possible, speak to the student in private.
  • Be supportive and express your concern about the student’s health. Provide specific examples of behaviors or symptoms that are of concern.
  • Refer the student to the Counseling and Psychiatry Services (CAPS) or HOPE Team at 802-656-3340. (see below for description and more info. on HOPE Team)
  • Consult with a professional from Counseling & Psychiatry Services (802-656-3440) if you want advice on how or when to intervene with a student.


  • Reassure a student that his/her obsessions are normal and therefore nothing to worry about.
  • Scare the student into changing or getting help. With eating disorders, fear seldom motivates change.
  • Make jokes about eating disorders or about fat people to students.
  • Make positive comments about a student’s weight loss. It is difficult to discern if you are rewarding healthy behavior or encouraging a hidden disorder.

Resources at UVM

Counseling & Psychiatry Services
(802) 656-3340

HOPE stands for Help Overcome Problem Eating. HOPE is a multidisciplinary team of professionals committed to promoting positive body image and supporting students who struggle with problem eating. We offer individual assessment and treatment for students who have or may have disordered eating or body image issues. If needed, treatment typically includes regular medical followups and counseling.

Submit a CARE Form