Understand the Hidden Signs of an Eating Disorder

By Heather Patterson Meyer, PsyD, MAT, Counseling and Psychological Services licensed psychologist and Eating Disorders Treatment Team coordinator

There are many myths out there about eating disorders, so it’s no wonder that it can be difficult to truly understand the risks and warning signs of an eating disorder.

Unlike what some people assume, eating disorders are not limited to a particular age group, gender, race, sexual orientation or other identifier. They can affect anyone. It’s also important to recognize that eating disorders are not a choice but a mental illness that develops over time. People with eating disorders did not “bring it on themselves.” Eating disorders are not limited to anorexia, but they also can include ARFID, binge eating disorder, bulimia, pica, rumination disorder and other unspecified feeding or eating disorder. Understanding all of this will help you better recognize warning signs of an eating disorder.

While there are many signs, here is a list of more subtle ones that often slip by unnoticed:

  • Excessively looking in the mirror
  • Negatively commenting on your physical appearance
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide your body shape
  • No longer eating with friends or family
  • Consuming caffeine to suppress your appetite
  • Constantly counting calories and/or micronutrients
  • Excessively chewing before swallowing
  • Taking a long time to eat
  • Obsessing over “clean eating
  • Consuming fewer calories in order to drink more alcohol
  • Frequently visiting nutrition websites
  • Spending hours exercising and obsessing over calories burned
  • Becoming upset if an exercise routine is disrupted and eating less to compensate
  • Using diet shakes, pills, teas, etc.
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities.

If you or a loved one is exhibiting these behaviors, it could be a hidden sign of an eating disorder. Help is available. The UHC Eating Disorders Treatment Team specializes in helping individuals struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. They offer individual counseling, support and therapy groups, nutritional counseling, medical evaluations and more. To talk to a member of the team, call 402-472-7450. You can also get help by calling the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

For a full list of eating disorder warning signs, visit the Remuda Ranch website.

Also be sure to read Monday’s blog post about ways you can support Eating Disorders Awareness Week and help end the stigma surrounding eating disorders.

Fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Ashley Grundmayer, M.A., licensed independent mental health practitioner and provisionally licensed alcohol and drug counselor with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

It’s common to feel a little down in the dumps during the cold and dark winter months. However, if the change of seasons has suddenly caused you to have low mood, decreased energy, irritability or excessive sleepiness, it could be a sign that the “winter blues” or “cabin fever” has developed into Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What is SAD?

SAD is a depressive disorder often triggered during the change of seasons. Most people with SAD experience an onset of symptoms in the fall that continues into the winter months, but it can appear during any change of season.

SAD affects people from all walks of life, but young adults, women and those with a family history of depression or SAD are more likely to experience the disorder.

What are the symptoms?

The National Institute of Mental Health reports people with SAD often experience symptoms of major depression, such as:

  • Feeling depressed during most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.

Additionally, people with SAD may struggle with hypersomnia, overeating, decreased energy and an urge to “hibernate,” which could involve avoiding academic responsibilities and withdrawing from social opportunities.

What causes it?

The cause of SAD is unknown, but some medical and mental health experts suspect that a disruption of melatonin levels, serotonin levels and a person’s biological clock may be the primary culprit. As college students, any SAD symptoms caused by these changes in the body can be exacerbated by an increased workload and struggles with time management. This is why it’s especially important to keep an eye out for SAD symptoms, not only personally, but also in the lives of your friends, classmates and significant others.

What should I do if I think I have SAD?

The first step is to recognize the problem. If you are struggling with mild SAD symptoms, there are several coping strategies you can try:

  • Light therapy: Add another lamp or two to your dorm room. Consider purchasing a fixture designed specifically to emit light levels that have been found to be therapeutic. Weather-permitting, try to spend at least a few minutes outdoors in the sunlight each day.
  • Exercise: Whether it’s going to a group fitness class at the Campus Rec Center, lifting weights in your living area, taking a few laps around the interior of the Union or heading outdoors for a hike, find an activity that interests you and try to incorporate it into your daily winter routine.
  • Socialize: Combat the desire to isolate by making plans with friends, roommates or family. If you don’t have someone to spend time with, attend an on-campus activity, join a free CAPS support group, attend a Student Involvement Coffee Talks session or participate in some similar activity to meet new people.
  • Improve your sleep: As tempting as it may be, avoid oversleeping. Create a sleep schedule and try to stick to it every day. Limit caffeine consumption. Create a healthier sleep environment by not using electronic devices in bed. Stop by the Health Promotion & Outreach office in the lower level of the University Health Center to pick up a free sleep kit to help you get a better night’s rest.

If you are experiencing severe SAD symptoms, make an appointment with a therapist. Our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff is here for you. Bonus: If you pay student fees, your first four therapy sessions per academic lifetime are no extra cost (Some restrictions apply).

For more information about CAPS, visit health.unl.edu/caps.

CAPS Staff: All Are Welcome

The staff at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) stand with the statement issued by NU President Hank Bounds and the Nebraska University system chancellors. We agree with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that the “executive order (signed by President Trump) is disturbing and disruptive to our students and UNL employees and that it does not represent the values of UNL.”

We understand that students might be experiencing a great deal of fear and uncertainty, even if they are not directly impacted by the ban, and we are here to listen. Whether you are an international student or a domestic student, you are a Husker.

Counseling and Psychological Services is here for you. If you would like to meet with a counselor, please call 402-472-7450 to schedule an appointment, or stop by our free Drop-in Support Group, which meets Tuesdays 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. in the University Health Center, Room 213.

CAPS: Coping Strategies for the Recent Election

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln community recognizes that, in the wake of the recent election, many feel deeply impacted by these events in our country. For the overall health of our community, the University Health Center Counseling and Psychological Services team created strategies to help you manage any feelings that may arise.

1.) Maintain your normal routine and engage in healthy activities that provide balance in your life. Try not to withdraw. Consider exercise—alone or with others—as a way to induce feelings of well-being.

2.) Practice acceptance. Try self-soothing strategies such as taking a walk, meditating, mindfulness exercises, listening to music or whatever you find helpful. Now is the time for you to take care of yourself.

3.) Practice reflection and pay attention to your early awareness signs. Allow time to reflect on your reactions, personal history and ways your values and well-being feel threatened. By watching your own reactions to stress, you can then address them. This might be a tightened throat, muscle tension, negative evaluations of the other person or an impulse to act out.

4.) Model healthy communication and seek community. This is an opportunity to show you can elevate conversations, take a higher path and engage in positive conversation. Sharing experiences and ideas with others can be a way to strengthen positive community values and shared identities. It may make you feel good about yourself, too! There are many groups on campus you may want to consider joining if you have not yet already done so.

5.) Limit your intake of news and social media. If you feel distressed by what’s in the media, temporarily limit your consumption of Facebook, Twitter and other social media as well as watching and reading the news. Helpful apps and websites, such as LeechBlock or SelfControl, can temporarily block your access to social media or certain websites.

6.) Be thankful. Jotting down 10 to 15 things you are grateful for, such as your health or your family, can help you maintain perspective. The list will remind you of what provides you strength and support.

7.) Acknowledge feelings. Reactions to events vary from person to person. Some experience intense feelings while others experience nothing at all. Allow yourself to feel what you feel and don’t judge your personal experience or the experience of others.

8.) Utilize your supports and resources. Many have a natural tendency toward isolation when feeling triggered or emotional. Reach out to those around you—family and friends—who may be experiencing similar feelings. Utilize support groups or other resources in your community.

9.) Get your sleep. Aside from breathing, eating and drinking, there is likely no more important function to our survival and well-being than sleep. Most of us need approximately eight hours of sleep a night to feel rested, relaxed and capable of meeting the next day’s challenges. During times of stress, quality sleep is even more important, so make it a priority by giving yourself permission to get your zzz’s. For helpful sleep tips, visit: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/healthy-sleep-tips

10). Be patient. Some people go through a crisis and think they should be “over it” within a week or two. The truth is, big events can take time to process, and feeling better can take a while as well. Know that if you’re not feeling back to yourself quickly, that is likely normal. On the other hand…

11). Seek counseling. If the event that distresses you impacts you in an ongoing way and affects your ability to function at school, home or in your day-to-day life, feel free to consult with one of the Counseling and Psychological Services therapists at the University Health Center. We are here to help you explore your concerns, develop positive coping strategies and get back to yourself again. Our services are confidential, and the first four sessions of your academic career are offered at no extra charge if you have paid student fees. For more information, visit: health.unl.edu/CAPS


CAPS Staff: How deeply shocked and saddened we are by the recent shootings

The staff of CAPS join with our students of UNL in expressing how deeply shocked and saddened we all are by the shootings that occurred in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas. We cannot ignore the death of another Black male at the hands of law enforcement. We cannot ignore the loss of police lives. This is not the time to discount, dismiss, or deny anyone’s feelings.  Rather, it is important to acknowledge that the loss of life in recent days, as well as historically, is senseless and painful to us all.

As we struggle to wrap our minds around the losses and the many emotions we are experiencing, we recognize that our students may be struggling as well. With that in mind, we want to remind students that we are available to sit with you and talk about how you are being affected by the harsh reality of the shootings.

We understand that, while no one can go through something like this without being affected, this uniquely impacts our students of color, especially in their sense of safety. Race-based trauma is very real and can create symptoms and experiences much like PTSD. Repeated race-based trauma puts your emotional, psychological, and physical well-being at risk. Symptoms of race-based trauma include: shock, denial, disbelief, sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, panic, hypervigilance, anger, loss of appetite, apathy, numbness, and hopelessness. We want to remind you of the safety of our spaces in CAPS and encourage you to reach out for support should you need it.

CAPS staff members want you to know that we are committed to our students’ care and safety. With that in mind, we seek to be a safe space, now and always, where students can talk about fears, sadness, or concerns about discrimination, racism, or harassment. We encourage you to talk to us, we can help.

Students may call our office during regular office hours to make an appointment or reach out to us in the evenings, if they are in crisis. The CAPS number is (402) 472-7450.

You can also join us on Friday, July 15th at noon in the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center for a dialogue on the recent shootings, their impact on mental health, and how you can take care of yourself in the process.


CAPS Staff: How deeply saddened we are by the events that occurred in Orlando

The staff of CAPS join in with our students of UNL in expressing how deeply saddened we all are by the events that occurred in Orlando. This was a horrific act of terrorism, but we must not ignore the fact that this was, at the same time, a reprehensible hate crime.

As we struggle to wrap our minds around the loss of so many, we recognize that our students may be struggling as well. With that in mind, we want to remind students that we are available to sit with you and talk about the harsh reality of the shooting.

In this situation, the perpetrator went into a space that people considered safe and sought to take lives because of his hate. His actions can affect the level of safety that any student might feel regardless of their sexual identity, gender identity, religious preference or racial identity.

The nature of the incident may also trigger feelings of anxiety or panic. We want to remind you of the safety of our spaces in CAPS and encourage you to reach out for support should you need it.

We also understand that due to the religious affiliation of the shooter, our Muslim students may be prone to experiences of Islamophobia. We would like them to know that CAPS recognizes this concern and wants to be a support for them as well.

Students may call our office during regular office hours to make an appointment or reach out to us in the evenings, if they are in crisis. The CAPS number is: (402) 472-7450.

CAPS staff members want you to know that we are committed to our students care and safety. With that in mind, we seek to be a safe space where students can talk about fears, sadness, or concerns about discrimination/harassment. We encourage you to talk to us, we can help.

Our hearts and minds are with the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities. It is our deepest hope that we can all choose love and acceptance instead of fear and hate. We stand as an ally to anyone who is being judged or persecuted for their sexual orientation, gender expression or racial identity.

Alcohol and Other Drug Resources for UNL Students

The University Health Center now offers a variety of services to help students who are struggling with unhealthy alcohol behaviors.

Alcohol Online Self-Assessment

Have you questioned whether you have a drinking problem?
Take our survey and find out if you would benefit from CAPS resources. http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/husker


BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students) is a preventative alcohol abuse intervention program designed specifically for college students. BASICS is conducted over the course of two 50-minute interviews. These brief and focused interventions prompt students to be aware of their drinking patterns. The first session gathers information about the student’s use via brief surveys and an interview with a clinician. A second session provides the student with personalized feedback from the findings that helps them explore their personal values and beliefs.

The intent is to increase awareness of behaviors and assist students in making adaptive changes in their decisions with alcohol. There may be recommendations provided to the
student, but the sessions are conducted from a collaborative and non-judgmental approach.

CASICS (Cannabis Screening and Intervention of College Students) is also offered. CASICS is specifically designed to address issues related to marijuana use.

There is a charge for BASICS and CASICS. For pricing information, visit: health.unl.edu/caps or call (402) 472-7450.

Substance Use Evaluations

This service utilizes a thorough interview and testing of a person’s drinking and drug use for the purpose of making formal recommendations about the possible need for treatment.  The court system often requires an evaluation of a person with legal charges related to alcohol and drug related offenses. CAPS can conduct evaluations and assist the student in finding treatment options that will suit their needs. CAPS is also happy to provide referrals to outside mental health providers who conduct evaluations.

There is a charge for a substance use evaluation. For pricing, visit: health.unl.edu/caps or call (402) 472-7450.

Individual Counseling

Individual counseling sessions are available through CAPS for students who struggle with unhealthy alcohol behaviors. CAPS offers a safe, confidential place where a student can slow down, think out loud, get support and start finding solutions.

Every student receives their first four counseling sessions for no charge.
Note: Our clinic does not provide individual therapy services for students who are required by law (outside of campus related violations and charges) to seek treatment for a legal offense. However, CAPS can assist in finding resources to meet your needs.

Alcohol & Drug Harm Reduction Group

CAPS provides a free weekly group for students who want to make better decisions about their alcohol and/or drug use. It is not Alcoholics Anonymous or treatment.  Abstinence is not required to attend the group. It is a place where a student can speak honestly about their current use and get feedback without feeling judged or pressured to change.

For current group details, visit: health.unl.edu/caps/groups

Alcoholics Anonymous

CAPS is happy to provide recommendations and meeting schedules for Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and other support groups in the Lincoln community.

Alcoholics Anonymous:   http://lincaa.org
Al-Anon/Alateen:             http://nebr-al-anon-alateen.org
Narcotics Anonymous:     http://nebraskana.org

Student Mentors

CAPS can provide the names and phone numbers of students who currently attend UNL and are dedicated to helping others with alcohol-related and drug-related difficulties. They are willing to candidly answer questions about the challenges and benefits of being sober while attending a major university. Student mentors are a valuable resource regarding sober lifestyles and managing stress in a healthy manner. They share their personal experiences of getting and staying sober.

Support for Family and Friends Affected by a Loved One’s Substance Use

Students, parents, and faculty are encouraged to call CAPS to discuss problems they may be facing pertaining to a loved one’s substance use issues. These counselors can help you assess, intervene, and provide treatment options on and off campus.

Upcoming: Campus Recovery Community

Counseling and Psychological Services has received a grant from Transforming Youth Recovery and is implementing a program to provide support, services, and activities specifically for students who are in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Anticipated facets to the community include support groups, social activities, sober housing, and providing alcohol and drug education outreach on campus. 

To schedule an appointment for any of these services, or if you have any questions, Call (402) 472-7450 OR Stop by the University Health Center, Room 213