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ND recognizes eating disorders

Kaite McCarty | Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In observance of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, the University Counseling Center is promoting awareness of the dangerous effects of the pressure to look perfect.

“Students can feel like a lot of aspects of their life are out of control, and food is one aspect that they can control,” Maureen Lafferty, assistant director of the University Counseling Center, said. “An eating disorder can develop from this mentality.”

The theme of this year’s national campaign to promote awareness of eating disorders is “Everybody Knows Somebody,” which reflects that the number of eating disorders in the United States is on the rise. The campaign also focuses on how to reach out to people with these disorders.

Lafferty said although people commonly associate eating disorders with women, men can also suffer from them.

“Women are certainly affected more, but eating disorders are not limited exclusively to women,” she said.

Signs of an eating disorder include a restricted diet, mood swings, compulsive and obsessive exercise and low self-esteem. However, Lafferty said any radical change in behavior is a cause for concern.

“If you notice a significant drop in weight or a change in eating behavior, it may indicate an eating disorder,” she said. “If you have a concern, it should be expressed in the spirit of care and compassion.

“It is a sensitive subject, so express your concern in a caring way rather than being accusatory”

Lafferty also said turning to professionals can be a smart way to address concerns. They can provide additional information and help develop a plan for whether and how to approach the person.

“Eating disorders are way more complex than we think and in some cases we need professional input to figure out the best way to approach the situation,” Lafferty said.

If a student notices a friend engaging in harmful behavior, he or she should turn to a rector or a member of the University Counseling Center, Lafferty said.

“Do not feel like you alone need to be responsible in the situation,” she said. “If you notice a change in a person’s behavior, do not act like a detective. Approach them with an attitude of compassion rather than anything accusatory.”