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Signs that Someone Might Be at Risk for Developing an Eating Disorder

Signs that Someone Might Be at Risk for Developing an Eating Disorder

Guest blog post contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Director @ Eating Disorder Hope, and Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC, President @ Eating Disorder Hope

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, it may be difficult or confusing to understand the many signs and symptoms that may be present.  Though there are many stigmas surrounding eating disorders, these diseases should not be taken lightly.  Eating disorders are severe mental health illnesses that are caused by complex factors, such as biological, psychological, and environmental reasons.

Many of the misconceptions about eating disorders concern the reasons why eating disorders develop.  Unlike a diet fad or the latest dieting trend, eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating patterns and disturbed eating behaviors.  These disorders are not simply an attempt to “lose weight”, or a “disease of vanity”.  Whether it is Anorexia, Bulimia, or Binge Eating Disorder, these psychiatric diseases develop and progress over time.  To heal from an eating disorder, a professional treatment team is needed to address the many factors involved.

With over 20 million women and 10 million men suffering from eating disorders in the United States, it is important to understand the signs that someone might be at risk for developing an eating disorder.  Identifying these diseases as early as possible improves the chances for interventions and treatment outcomes.  Thankfully, treatment methods are improving as eating disorders are better understood by researchers and health care professionals.  While it may feel daunting to face the fact that you or someone you love has an eating disorder, recognizing what you are struggling with will only help the recovery process.

Given the complexity of eating disorders, it is critical to be aware of the different ways symptoms may appear.  Eating disorders impact a person’s physical health, emotional well-being, relationships, finances, and more.  If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, look for these signs and symptoms:

  • Abnormal food behaviors, rituals, or eating patterns, such as eating unusual portion sizes, cutting food into tiny pieces, hiding food, or purposely eating alone.
  • Fixation with food, weight loss, and/or body image
  • Obsession with counting calories, fat grams, nutrient content of foods, etc
  • Heighted depression, lethargy, and/or anxiety
  • Withdrawal from relationships, social functions, family, and friends
  • Severely restricting caloric intake, resulting in unstable weight loss
  • Intense fear of eating and/or weight gain
  • Episodes of bingeing on a very large amount of food, followed by purging
  • Feelings of guilt or shame in regards to eating or body image
  • Feeling out of control while eating

While these symptoms may indicate that an eating disorder is developing, it is necessary to see a qualified health professional for a full assessment and diagnosis.  If you are struggling with any of the above symptoms, it is important that you seek the help and guidance of a medical professional.  Your life is valuable, and recovery from an eating disorder is possible, no matter what has brought you to this point in your journey.  Though it may be scary to reach out and ask for the help you need, you are taking the most vital step in reclaiming your life and finding freedom from an eating disorder.