Eating disorders manifest in different ways among different people. However, there are certain common red flags that can signal a problem is developing. If you recognize some or all of the following warning signs, it may be time to seek help for your loved one.
- Purging for Weight Control. Purging behaviors include self-induced vomiting and the overuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. The binge eating/purging type of eating disorder is characterized by episodes of excessive eating followed by self-induced vomiting or the use of medications in an attempt to decrease food absorption and speed up the emptying of the stomach.
- Obsession With Food, Calories, and Dieting. A sudden, borderline obsessive preoccupation with counting calories and avoiding foods perceived as unhealthy can often indicate eating-related issues. Some individuals may suddenly decide to become vegetarian or vegan in an attempt to limit calorie intake, however, they will often neglect to include a sufficient amount of other essential nutrients in their diet.
- Changes in Mood and Emotional State. Individuals battling an eating disorder often become depressed and may withdraw from their family and friends. Anxiety and irritability are also common, as is losing interest in previously enjoyable activities. Individuals with an eating disorder may become highly sensitive to criticism, failure, and mistakes.
- Distorted Body Image. Classic characteristics of an eating disorder involve body-size overestimation, negative feelings towards one’s physical self, and a high drive for thinness. Repeated body checking in the mirror, checking of body measurements, and pinching certain parts of their body are all common symptoms of an eating disorder.
- Excessive Exercise. Many individuals with eating disorders develop compulsive exercise habits and will spend hours training in a rigid, ritualistic manner. Often, they’ll fixate on the number of calories burned or the total time they’ve spent working out. If a workout is compromised, they may eat less than normal in an attempt to compensate for missing a workout.
- Denial of Hunger and Refusal to Eat. Someone with an eating disorder will frequently make excuses to skip meals or attempt to avoid eating in front of others entirely. Many will suddenly claim to dislike foods they previously loved. Certain individuals may binge on sweets and other unhealthy foods and attempt to conceal any evidence from friends and family.
- Engaging in Food Rituals. Obsessive behavior about food and weight often triggers control-oriented eating habits that leave an individual feeling a sense of control. A few of these common habits may be eating extremely slow, cutting food into tiny pieces, or arranging food on a plate in a certain pattern.
- Physical Changes. Excessive weight loss is a main sign of anorexia. It’s also one of the most concerning. Other physical changes may include greying skin, irregular (or absent) menstrual cycles, and fainting spells or low blood pressure. Many individuals will seem constantly fatigued and in overall poor health.
The symptoms listed above may be the first and most obvious indications of an eating disorder. In those with more severe eating disorders, body organs can be affected and trigger other symptoms, including:
- Fatigue, sluggishness, and lethargy
- Cavity formation from vomiting
- Dry and yellowish skin
- Thinning of bones
- Growth of fine, soft hair covering the body
- Brittle hair and nails
- Muscle loss and muscle weakness
- Low blood pressure and pulse
- Severe constipation
- Feeling cold all the time due to a drop in internal temperature
It’s important to seek help as soon as symptoms are noticed. Early interventions and treatment are linked to the best chance at recovery and success. Our experienced professionals stand ready to help your loved one through this difficult time. If you feel like your loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 435-938-6060.