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Identifying an Eating Disorder

Identifying an Eating Disorder

Sep 29, 2020
young woman staring into a mirror

Eating disorders are often surrounded by a sense of taboo and mystery, making them uncomfortable for some people to discuss. In America, an estimated 30 million people live with an eating disorder of some sort, with women being twice as likely as men to have one.

Grouped into three categories—anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS)—eating disorders are non-discriminatory in who they affect. While pop culture has painted eating disorders as trivial, run of the mill problems that only affects teenage girls, the truth is quite contrary to that. Eating disorders can occur at any age, and for any sex, gender or race.

It’s important to know the signs of a possible eating disorder, not only for yourself but also for your friends and family.

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and nothing to take lightly. In fact, they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with someone dying from an eating disorder every hour. Eating disorders are most treatable when they are identified in their early stages. Here’s what to look for.

Eating A Lot All at Once

Binge eating is one of the most common disorders falling under the EDNOS diagnosis and happens when a person consumes more food than usual in a very short amount of time. If you notice this pattern in yourself or someone you love starts to notice this pattern, it may be time to talk to your doctor.

Sudden Weight Loss

Sudden weight loss is likely the easiest symptom to identify, as the weight loss will likely be very noticeable. This symptom can also present itself in the form of children who continue to grow but don’t gain any weight over an extended period of time.

Skipping Out on Obligations to Exercise

Common knowledge says that exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle; and while that may be true, it is also best practiced in moderation. If you notice a loved one missing work, school, or other important obligations because they need to go to the gym, this may be a cause for concern.

New Food Rituals

Many people have a routine when they eat a meal, and this is common. Family members often have designated seats at the table, some may say a prayer before a meal and some people don’t like their foods to touch on their plates. Concern begins to arise when someone suddenly picks up a new habit or ritual and refuses to budge from it. Some of these rituals can include insisting on eating very slowly, cutting their food up into very small pieces and requiring that a meal be eaten at the same exact time every day.

The listed symptoms display that perfectionism and obsessional behaviors are core features of eating disorders. A combination of symptoms or a prolong presentation of any symptom or symptoms is reason for concern. Supporting a person with an eating disorder can be a difficult thing to do. A good start is to educate yourself about eating disorders. The more you know about what your friend or family member is going through, the better you can support them. The resource below provides additional guidance concerning symptoms, support and treatment.

The National Eating Disorders helpline is available at 1-800-931-2237. Additional information is available here.

Topics: Behavioral Health