Finding help for eating disorders

Published: February 13, 2022 Author: Staff reports

Trigger warning: this article includes information about eating disorders and mental health. 

February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Month and there are many eating disorder support resources available at Ohio University.

“Oftentimes whenever people have an eating disorder, it’s very similar to an addiction to anything else. There’s a lot of denial that goes into it that’s part of the disease. The disease is convincing them that they’re fine – that they’re not thin enough, they’re overweight even when they’re not. There are a lot of inaccurate perceptions about themselves,” said Eileen Marshal Koch, staff counselor in the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services

The three major types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

“They’re all mental health disorders that are harmful to people’s physical health also,” Koch said. “People with anorexia are often severely under-nourished, which becomes a huge problem and can be life-threatening. Bulimia nervosa has all kind of issues from self-induced vomiting, and all of these disorders are things that the people who are engaging in them do not want other people to know. The same is true of binge eating. It’s often done in private.”

According to Koch, the National Eating Disorder Association reported a 75 percent increase in calls from 2019 to 2020. This is largely attributed to the COVID pandemic, she said, and people feeling a loss of control in their life. 

“Eating disorders are about control and people trying to control things. Sometimes the only thing they can control is what they do or don’t eat,” she said.

There are signs to watch out for in loved ones. For example, they might wear loose-fitting or baggy clothes to hide the fact that they are malnourished. Those looking for help can find many resources on the Ohio University campuses. 

“We have at Ohio University the Eating Disorder Support Team and that team has counselors with eating disorder treatment experience and campus care doctors, and a nutritionist from WellWorks who works with us now. That team meets a couple of times each semester and if a student is struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder we refer them to the support team,” she said. 

Other resources are available, including the Body Project group for students at Ohio University. The Counseling and Psychological Services Office also has a Radical Body Acceptance Support Group for people with disordered eating. 

“People do recover and it’s about learning to have a healthier relationship with food so it’s not a constant battle interrupting their lives and keeping them from enjoying things. There is help, and people don’t have to suffer alone,” Koch said.

For more information about the resources and programs available, contact the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services at 740-593-1616.