Santa Clara University


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Not Hungry

Monday, Apr. 18, 2011

Jaya has always been thin, but recently she has started to look emaciated. Jaya used to meet her roommate, Naomi, and some of their mutual friends for dinner, but lately, she tells Naomi she is "just going to grab something on the way to the library."

Also, Jaya works out like a fiend, running twice a day and doing endless crunches. Naomi has heard that this pattern is common in people with the eating disorder anorexia. She has tried to broach the subject with Jaya, but Jaya angrily denied that she had a problem. Last week, though, Jaya passed out after doing her evening sit-ups. She’s also cold all the time, no matter the temperature in the room. Naomi is truly worried.

What should Naomi do?  Should she talk to someone at the University Health Service?  Should she call Jaya's parents?

Here are some resources that may be helpful:

Symptoms of Eating Disorders: Mayo Clinic

Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders

A Framework for Thinking Ethically


Photo by Futurilla available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.


Comments Comments

Alexa Hawayek said on Apr 18, 2011
Did you know that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness? "The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old." ( Many females in our society have negative body images, I believe this is provoked by the media. There is so much pressure on women to look a certain way, to be thin, fit, toned, and "cellulite free." By flipping through Cosmo, Vogue or any magazine for that matter, women are exposed to highly retouched photos of models with "perfect bodies." It is unreasonable and almost impossible for one to strive to look like "a barbie," or a model in a magazine. Yet, so many teenagers and women are haunted by images of stick thin models, and therefore diet and exercise excessively in order to look like them. If Naomi has noticed a change in Jaya's behavioral patterns, it is important that Naomi speaks up and seeks help. College is a rough transition period. As a Freshman, one moves away from their families and is in a new environment, completely independent. This can come as a shock to some, and some students, like Jaya, cope with the stress by means of controlling or restricting. Although Naomi cannot help Jaya on her own, as her roommate, she holds some responsibility in monitoring Jaya's wellness. Jaya's family isn't around to notice any weight loss or behavioral changes. Naomi is the closest thing Jaya has to family at this point. Eating disorders are tricky, especially for friends of the sick person. Someone with an eating disorder may deny it and convince those around them that there is nothing wrong. However, it is important to realize that these people are very manipulative and good at hiding their issues. Naomi shouldn't accuse Jaya, rather she should be there as support and someone who Jaya can talk to. The first step in recovery is recognizing the illness. With medical and psychiatric help, Jaya can come to terms with her illness, and battle it head on. Naomi should anonymously tell the school's health center about her concern for Jaya. She should approach Jaya in a way that expresses her concern without targeting Jaya and making Jaya feel as if she were accusing her. Eating disorders affect every part of the body, especially the brain. Eating disorders also parallel other mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. A psychiatrist/psychologist will be able to diagnose and treat obvious and underlying causes that may have instigated Jaya's change in eating habits. Naomi may be afraid of losing her friendship with Jaya if she were to speak up, but if she doesn't speak up she may lose Jaya forever anyways. If Jaya finds out Naomi was the one who reported her to the school, she may be mad at first, but in the long run she will realize Naomi's actions came out of love and Jaya will eventually thank Naomi saving her life. - Like
Deepti Shenoy said on Apr 19, 2011
Naomi's probably worried about one of two things. If she and Jaya are good friends, she may be worried that confronting Jaya might wreck the friendship. If she doesn't know Jaya too well, she might be concerned that she is overstepping her boundaries as a roommate by interfering in Jaya's eating habits. Either way, Naomi should do something about the situation. There is clearly something wrong with Jaya. Healthy people don't pass out while exercising. At its most severe, an eating disorder can have even more serious consequences including permanent physical damage and even death. You don't have to be someone's friend to want to save her life. If Naomi is a close friend of Jaya's, the obligation is even stronger. She should get involved whether or not her intervention makes Jaya angry. If Naomi truly cares about Jaya, her friend's health should be an even greater priority than maintaining the friendship. This does not mean Naomi should inform everyone in the dorm about Jaya's possible eating disorder. Nor does it necessarily mean she should continue to force the issue with Jaya herself. What it does mean is that Naomi should do whatever is within her power to get Jaya the help she clearly needs. The first step might be talking to a health care expert or someone within the university who is equipped to deal with Jaya's problems. - Like
Cameron Tow said on Apr 20, 2011
According to this description, Jaya is almost definitely anorexic. Anorexia is an extremely dangerous condition, and her friend needs to respond to it right away, even against Jaya's will. It is absolutely Naomi's responsibility at the very least to report the case to the student health center, at which point, hopefully, they will be able to intervene. The sooner Jaya gets help, the easier it will be to fix the problem. Anorexic people get worse over time by reinforcing their own habits and falling into downward spirals of depression, leading to even more stringent eating and exercise habits. Without treatment, Jaya could develop liver, skin, heart, or gastrointestinal problems, some of which might even kill her. Naomi could also try to convince Jaya that she has a serious illness and should seek help, but this may be very difficult; many anorexic people flat out deny that they have any sort of problem. Naomi needs to ignore what Jaya says and act on what she observes. - Like
Miriam Schulman said on Apr 21, 2011
I suppose it won't come as a shock, but I think Naomi should call Jaya's parents. Parents may be annoying, intrusive, and clueless about many things, but in a serious situation like this, they are the people most likely to make the long-term commitment necessary to address the problem. Jaya's best chance lies in getting help promptly. Her normal right to privacy in these matters can be contravened because of the threat to her health. The other thing Naomi can do is to offer continuing friendship. Sometimes people imagine that they can help someone who is struggling with a serious illness, but then they get frustrated and turn away when the patient does not improve. Managing an eating disorders is often a long struggle, and Naomi's intervention may not cure Jaya. But Jaya is not her illness. She's a person who, sick or well, will value having a friend. - Like
David DeCosse said on Apr 21, 2011
What can I do? There's nothing like a friend or family member locked in addictive patterns to raise this question for us -- and to raise it desperately. We want to do something, anything to help. Plus, we assume -- in part on account of the way that we've been taught ethics -- we have to do something, that we have to call a roommate's parents or challenge our roommate who seems hell-bent on destroying herself. Of course, there is a profound truth to that instinct for action. But we also have to see these situations in a longer view. After all, at some point we will have done all that we think we should do -- and our roommate may be no better. At that point, it's time to pivot from an ethics of action to an ethics of presence. We can accompany our friend. We can assume the responsibility for recognizing the choices they make (whether good or bad choices). And we can hope that the unmistakable signal we send that we care for them and value their capacity to make choices will in time help awaken a sense of their own value and of their power to choose to break out of the addictive cycle. This may work and it may not. In college we may learn many things about ethics. But none may be tougher than this: Despite everything that we do, we may still lose someone we love. - Like
Kara said on Jan 31, 2014
A lot of people face this problem; even I have faced a similar situation. Naomi, like a lot of people in her position, are definitely in a hard place. Moreover it is difficult to intervene and try to help someone who is in such a sensitive and unstable place. I think Naomi did a good thing by confronting Jaya about her disorder, even though Jaya was reluctant. I personally believe the next step Naomi should take is to sit Jaya down and tell her that she fully acknowledges that Jaya has a psychical and mental sickness but also let her know that she needs help and you will do everything to get her that help. I think that Naomi should then talk to a counsellor at the school and ask what are the next steps she should take for her roommates own health and safety. I believe Naomi?s last resort would be to contact Jaya?s parents and seek their assistance and leave it in their hands as it is their responsibility to help and assist their child. - Like
bngl said on Dec 15, 2014
I think that Naomi should talk to someone at the University Health Service because there, someone can offer the right treatment or help towards the disorder that she probably has. Calling Jaya's parents will probably only stress them. - Like - 6 people like this.
knsd said on Dec 15, 2014
I agree completely. As much as family is very important the first priority is always health and then talk to the parents if they want you to. - Like - 1 person likes this.
knsd109 said on Dec 15, 2014
What do you do? You don't hesitate and ask "What can I do?" You pick up the phone call the medical center tell them what's going on and then inform the parents of this situation. Anorexia is a serious problem and should not be left alone to sort it's self out while you wonder if you should help or not. You're afraid they won't be your friend? They can't be your friend if they're dead! I may sound harsh or "Insensitive" but when someone's life is on the line, you act, don't wait. - Like - 2 people like this.
mlos said on Dec 15, 2014
i agree - Like - 1 person likes this.
mlos said on Dec 15, 2014
Naomi should call someone from the University Health Service to help Jaya treat anorexia also inform her parents on whats happening with Jaya - Like - 3 people like this.
Knsd said on Dec 15, 2014
What do you do? You don't hesitate and ask "What can I do?" You pick up the phone call the medical center tell them what's going on and then inform the parents of this situation. Anorexia is a serious problem and should not be left alone to sort it's self out while you wonder if you should help or not. You're afraid they won't be your friend? They can't be your friend if they're dead! I may sound harsh or "Insensitive" but when someone's life is on the line, you act, don't wait. - Like - 1 person likes this.
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Tags: anorexia, eating disorders, ethics, friendship