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For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Counseling & Psychological Services.

What are Anorexia, Bulimia, & Binge Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males. In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder.

Anorexia is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Bulimia is characterized by a secretive cycle of binge eating, then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative abuse, or over-exercising.

Binge Eating Disorder (also known as Compulsive Overeating) is characterized primarily by periods of overeating without purging. There may be feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge. Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity.

Click here for an Eating Disorder Screening Test

Signs & Symptoms


  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age, and activity level (15% below normal weight)
  • Intense fear of weight gain or being "fat"
  • Feeling "fat" or overweight despite dramatic weight loss
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape


  • Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging
  • Feeling out of control during a binge and eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness
  • Purging after a binge (typically by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diet pills, and/or diuretics, excessive exercise, or fasting
  • Frequent dieting
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Periods of uncontrolled impulsive eating beyond feeling full
  • Feelings of shame
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sporadic fasts and repetitive diets

Recommended Treatment

The most effective and long-lasting treatment for an eating disorder is psychotherapy, coupled with careful attention to medical and nutritional needs. A team approach is important in the treatment of eating disorders. A team approach includes:

  • Psychotherapy with a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or family therapist.
  • Medical monitoring by a physician or APRN with expertise in treating eating disorders.
  • Nutritional counseling including education meal planning and monitoring food choices.
  • Medications (such as Prozac) under careful medical supervision have also proven helpful for some individuals, particularly for patients with bulimia. (Wellbutrin is contraindicated for bulimia because of the danger of seizures.)

Level of Care

Treatment needs of each individual will vary. The seriousness of the symptoms determines the level of care. The following treatment options may be recommended:

Outpatient Therapy

Outpatient therapy includes individual, group, or family therapy. Medical monitoring and nutritional counseling are important.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive Outpatient Programs meet 3 to 5 times a week and include intensive individual and group therapy and nutritional counseling.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient Care is necessary when an eating disorder has led to physical problems that may be life-threatening, or when an eating disorder cannot be resolved with outpatient psychotherapy. 

Treating Eating Disorders - Fairfield University Eating Disorder Team

Fairfield University's Eating Disorder Coordination Team provides a multi-disciplinary approach to overseeing the physical well-being and psychological health of students struggling with eating disorders. The team is comprised of clinicians from Counseling & Psychological Services, the Health Center, and other professionals as needed. In the majority of cases, students struggling with an eating disorder will be referred to off-campus treatment providers to ensure they receive the treatment they need. The Eating Disorder Coordination Team provides support, case management, and referral resources in getting a student connected to care. 

For more information, contact Counseling & Psychological Services

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