The Student Who May Have an Eating Disorder


Western Carolina University utilizes a multidisciplinary approach for students with disordered eating and related behaviors. As it is well established that a good medical history and evaluation is essential in the evaluation of an eating disorder, students are encouraged to first access services through Health Services. Assessment services which determine the nature, scope and severity of an eating disorder encompass a medical evaluation, psychological and psychiatric evaluation and, in some cases, specialized evaluations from community resources. Additional services could include ongoing psychological, medical and psychiatric services, wellness education and referral coordination and, in some cases, coordinated multidisciplinary treatment services involving campus and community resources. For a student whose safety is jeopardized by their disordered eating and other behaviors or needs services beyond what we can provide, referrals are made to appropriate community services.


  • Dramatic weight loss.
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, dieting, and/or exercising.
  • Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging of food on a plate.)
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen – the need to “burn off” calories despite weather, fatigue, illness or injury.
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area.
  • Calluses on the back of the hands or knuckles from self-induced vomiting.
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.

What You Can Do

  • Select a time to talk to the student when you are not rushed and won’t be interrupted.
  • In a direct and non punitive manner, indicate to the student all the specific observations that have aroused your concern.
  • Express your continued support. Remind the student that you care and want to help. Ask the student to explore these concerns with a counselor, doctor, or other health professional. You may offer support by helping the student make an appointment with University Health Services (828.227.7640) or Counseling and Psychological Services (828.227.7469).
  • If the information you received is compelling, communicate to the student your tentative sense that this may be evidence of disordered eating behavior and your clear conviction that the matter needs to be professionally evaluated.
  • Contact Counseling and Psychological Services (828.227.7469) or Health Services (828.227.7640) if you have questions or concerns about resources or approaching the student.


  • Conflicts or a battle of wills with your student.
  • Diagnosing or providing therapy; instead develop a compassionate and forthright conversation about more appropriate interventions based upon the student’s situation.
  • Placing shame, blame or guilt on your student regarding his/her actions or attitudes.
  • Giving simple solutions. For example, “If you’d just stop, then everything would be fine!” or suggesting he/she bring food to class so you can watch them eat.

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