Eating Disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia, Overeating


“I am always on a diet & never satisfied with my weight.”

Dear Counselor: I have been troubled by low self-esteem and an eating disorder. I always seem to be on a diet and am concerned about how I look. I am never satisfied with my weight. Sometimes I throw-up my food after meals. Other times I can’t eat at all.. maybe for a whole week. Than, I may have 3 or 4 days of binging on food, especially sweets, chips or bread. I can’t seem to stop this. I am 15 now and feel like I need some help. I’ve never told my parents because I think they would be on my case about it all the time. Do you have any suggestions?

Dear Amy:
Thank you for talkng about your problem. You are not alone. There are many teens and young adults struggling with eating disorders. Let me give you some facts about eating disorders. I believe that you are suffering from a combination of 3 disorders: bulimia, anorexia and binge eating. I, also, recommend that you do tell your parents about this, contact AACC for a referral to a counseling professional in your area, and talk with your school counselor as well as your church pastor. Don’t wait to get help because you have a serious problem which can threaten your physical health as well as your mental health. Read the following but please get help now. Email me with further questions you may have at
Contact these resources:
Eating Disorders:
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) 1-847-831-3438 E-mail:
Overcomers Outreach, Inc: (a Christian organization) 1-800-310-3001; 1-714-491-3000
Remuda Ranch: (a Christian organization) 1-800-445-1900;

Facts about Eating disorders
People who intentionally starve themselves suffer from an eating disorder called anorexia nervosa. The disorder, which usually begins in young people around the time of puberty, involves extreme
weight loss–at least 15 percent below the individual’s normal body weight. Many people with the disorder look emaciated but are convinced they are overweight. Sometimes they must be hospitalized to prevent starvation.
Each year millions of people in the United States are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders.

Approximately 1 percent of adolescent girls develop anorexia nervosa, a dangerous condition in which they can literally starve themselves to death. Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder caused by deliberate self-starvation with a weight loss and an intense fear of gaining weight. See more information in the course above.

Another 2 to 3 percent of young women develop bulimia nervosa, a destructive pattern of excessive overeating followed by vomiting or other “purging” behaviors to control their weight. These eating disorders also occur in men and older women, but much less frequently.

The consequences of eating disorders can be severe. For example, one in ten cases of anorexia nervosa leads to death from starvation, cardiac arrest, other medical complications, or suicide. Fortunately, increasing awareness of the dangers of eating disorders–sparked by medical studies and extensive media coverage of the illness–has led many people to seek help.

People with bulimia nervosa consume large amounts of food and then rid their bodies of the excess calories by vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics, taking enemas, or exercising obsessively. Some use a combination of all these forms of purging. Because many individuals with bulimia “binge and purge” in secret and maintain normal or above normal body weight, they can often successfully hide their problem from others for years.

Bulimia is a preoccupation with food which usually includes binge eating and purging.


In trying to understand the causes of eating disorders, scientists have studied the personalities, genetics, environments, and biochemistry of people with these illnesses. As is often the case, the more that is learned, the more complex the roots of eating disorders appear.


Most people with eating disorders share certain personality traits: low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and a fear of becoming fat. In anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, eating behaviors seem to develop as a way of handling stress and anxieties.

People with anorexia tend to be “too good to be true.” See more information in the course above.

People who develop bulimia and binge eating disorder typically consume huge amounts of food–often junk food–to reduce stress and relieve anxiety. See more information in the course above.

Genetic and environmental factors

Eating disorders appear to run in families–with female relatives most often affected.


In an attempt to understand eating disorders, scientists have studied the biochemical on the neuroendocrine system–a combination of the central nervous and hormonal systems.

Spiritual Causes

How can we explain the underlying spiritual causes of eating disorders? My  thesis is that “People are disappointed with God and doubt His sovereignty and character (even His existence). They are trying to find life and meaning outside of Christ & God. I believe the answer is found when people surrender to Christ, and seek His will for their lives.”

People with eating disorders are driven by fear and perfectionism. They fear that they will not be accepted by others if they don’t look perfect. They fear that they will never measure up unless they are beautiful…having the perfect body shape. Binge eaters use food to experience comfort from stress and anxiety. Their underlying needs for significance, security and belonging can really only be met by God.. Pascal wrote: “there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man” Other people, status, money, beauty can never fill a void in the heart of man that only God can fill.

And Jesus said in Matt 6:31-33″ So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)
Personal dependence on Christ is the key.
You or your friend can find the real answer to meeting your deepest needs in life by discovering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the answer to your inner longings for significance, connection and happiness.


Eating disorders are most successfully treated when diagnosed early. Unfortunately, even when family members confront the ill person about his or her behavior, or physicians make a diagnosis, individuals with eating disorders may deny that they have a problem. Thus, people with anorexia may not receive medical or psychological attention until they have already become dangerously thin and malnourished. People with bulimia are often normal weight and are able to hide their illness from others for years.

Once an eating disorder is suspected, particularly if it involves weight loss, the first step is a complete physical examination to rule out any other illnesses. As a parent or guardian, you need to take the initiative to intervene and get the medical and counseling resources your child/teen needs immediately.Conditions warranting hospitalization include excessive and rapid weight loss, serious metabolic disturbances, clinical depression or risk of suicide, severe binge eating and purging, or psychosis.

Addressing spiritual needs are as important because people need hope and a reason to live healthy, productive lives. Jesus Christ is the answer for people in the world today who have lost a sense of direction and purpose for living. He said, “I have to come to give you life and to give it more abundantly.” John 10:10 I encourage you or a friend you might be trying to help to read about how to know God personally.

The complex interaction of emotional, spiritual and physiological problems in eating disorders calls for a comprehensive treatment plan, involving a variety of experts and approaches. Ideally, the treatment team includes an internist, a nutritionist, a mental health (Christian) counselor, and a psychopharmacologist–someone who is knowledgeable about psychoactive medications useful in treating these disorders and a pastor.

To help those with eating disorders deal with their illness and underlying emotional issues, some form of psychotherapy is usually needed.
Please contact AACC for a referral to a counseling professional in your area.


Medical complications can frequently be a result of eating disorders. Individuals with eating disorders who use drugs to stimulate vomiting, bowel movements, or urination may be in considerable danger, as this practice increases the risk of heart failure.

Some individuals with bulimia struggle with addictions, including abuse of drugs and alcohol, and compulsive stealing. Like individuals with anorexia, many people with bulimia suffer from clinical depression, anxiety, OCD, and other psychiatric illnesses. These problems, combined with their impulsive tendencies, place them at increased risk for suicidal behavior. Please contact AACC for a referral to a counseling professional in your area if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or behavior. See more information in the course above.
Order the Eat to Live! Online Course for management of disorders

Please take this problem seriously. Contact the following organizations for help on Eating Disorders:
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) 1-847-831-3438
Overcomers Outreach, Inc: 1-800-310-3001; 1-714-491-3000
Remuda Ranch: 1-800-445-1900;
Please contact AACC for a referral to a counseling professional in your area

© copyright 2007 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC