Eating disorders are complex and require several treatment modalities

These include:

  • medical monitoring

  • psychological counseling

  • nutrition support

To make an appointment

Call (805) 893-3371 to speak to the appointment desk.

Student Who are Returning from Day or Residential Programs

Anyone struggling with an eating disorder should be aware that the demands of college will increase the likelihood of relapse. It is essential that students prioritize their health and recovery over their academic demands.

Eating Disorder Support at UCSB

After an initial visit and assessment with a medical provider at Student Health, the student will meet with the other providers. After these visits, one of three recommendations may be made:

  • If the student is stable enough to continue to meet the demands of college life, support is available on campus. We have a multi-disciplinary approach that includes nutrition, medical, and counseling services.
  • Outpatient treatment typically includes a referral into the Santa Barbara community for long-term psychotherapy. Student Health will provide information on health care providers in the community who specialize in eating disorder treatment.
  • In the event that a higher level of care is needed, and the student needs to temporarily withdraw from college, the student is referred to a program that offers residential care.

Eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa is a very serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by restrictive eating and excessive weight loss.

There are four primary (diagnostic) symptoms:

  1. Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height.
  2. Intense fear of weight gain or being fat, even though underweight.
  3. Disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape, undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight.
  4. Loss of menstrual periods in girls and women post-puberty.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Student Health

Behavioral Symptoms

Physical Symptoms

Emotional Symptoms

  • Severe food restriction
  • Calorie or gram counting
  • Uses excuses to avoid eating
  • Hiding food
  • Unusual eating behaviors (picking at food, spreading it around, cutting into tiny pieces)
  • Obsession with food, calories, recipes (cooking for others but not eating anything themselves)
  • Excessive exercise - obsessive negative thoughts if a workout is skipped
  • Purging by vomiting, using diet pills, laxatives or diuretics
  • Consuming large amounts of coffee or tea, smoking or other drugs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic weight loss in a relatively short period of time
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Headaches
  • Persistently feeling cold and needing to layer clothing/layering clothing to hide body Pale complexion
  • Menstrual irregularities (including amenorrhea)
  • Fainting, dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Insomnia
  • Depression, irritability, mood swings, anxiety
  • Believing oneself to be fat when actually underweight
  • Overwhelming concern with body image
  • Perfectionist attitude
  • Self-defeating statements after eating
  • Low self-esteem


NEDA Information and Referral Helpline: 800-931-2237

National Eating Disorders Associatio

Bulimia is a very serious, life-threatening eating disorder. It is characterized by recurrent cycles of binge eating followed by a compensatory behavior (purging).  Binges are described as episodes of excessive calorie consumption and a lack of control over the behavior.  Purging is done to “make up” for calories consumed during the binge

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Binge eating
  • Purging:
    • Vomiting
    • Laxative use
    • Diet Pills
    • Fasting
    • Dieting
    • Over exercising
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
  • Intense exercise regimen
  • Fasting all day/obsessive dieting
  • Secretive eating
  • Storing food in secretive places

Physical Symptoms

Emotional Symptoms

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Red, puffy face and watery eyes
  • Swollen glands
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Weight fluctuations (between 10 and 15 pounds)
  • Tooth decay
  • Persistent concern with body image
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of guilt and shame

Contact SHS

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Student Health

Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following: 

  • Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

The binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following: 

  • Eating much more rapidly than normal.
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
  • Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating.
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward.
  • Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
  • Binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.
  • Binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging as in bulimia nervosa) and does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.

Purging behavior aimed to influence weight or shape is present but in the absence of binge eating.

Individuals meet all of the criteria for Anorexia Nervosa, with the exception of the weight criterion: the individual’s weight remains within or above the normal range, despite significant weight loss.

Individuals have recurrent episodes of eating at night, such as eating after awakening from sleep or excess calorie intake after the evening meal.

  • This eating behavior is not a cultural or acceptable norm (social), such as the occasional late-night munchies after a gathering.
  • It includes an awareness and recall of the eating, is not better explained by external influences such as changes in the individual’s sleep-wake cycle, and causes significant distress and/or impairment of functioning.
  • Though not defined specifically in DSM-5, research criteria for this diagnosis proposed adding the following criteria
    • the consumption of at least 25% of daily caloric intake after the evening meal and/or
    • evening awakenings with ingestions at least twice per week.

OSFED is the DSM-5 category that replaces the category formerly called Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) in DSM-IV.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Student Health