Eating disorder warning signs
Male, female, young and old—eating disorders do NOT discriminate! Spotting an eating disorder in a friend or loved one is not the easiest thing to do, because more often than not…they are hiding it. Believe it or not, you can’t always tell simply by looking at them because many people affected by an eating disorder actually have a normal body weight (or may even be overweight!) Before you learn some of the warning signs, it helps to become familiar with the three most common types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia Nervosa (AN): Characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
- Bulimia Nervosa (BN): Characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative/diuretic use and compulsive exercise.
- Binge Eating Disorder (BED): Characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating and feeling out of control during the episode.
Following is a partial list of warning signs to look out for if you suspect someone close to you is suffering from an eating disorder. To learn more, visit the National Eating Disorders Association.
- Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat”
- Denial of hunger
- Disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time
- Dramatic weight loss
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen
- Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
- Refusal to eat certain foods or entire food groups
- Swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
- Wearing baggy or layered clothes
Where to go for help:
- If you suspect your friend or loved one has an eating disorder, set aside a time for a private meeting to discuss your concerns openly and honestly in a caring, supportive way. Ask your friend to explore these concerns with a counselor, doctor, dietitian or other health professional who’s knowledgeable about eating issues.
- If you or your child are suffering from an eating disorder, call your family doctor.
- The National Eating Disorders Association: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
The bottom line: Eating disorders are not a choice. They develop over time and require appropriate treatment to address the complex medical and psychiatric symptoms and underlying issues. Whether it’s for you or a friend, please seek help if you suspect an eating disorder. If you ignore it, it won’t go away—it will only get worse. And tragically, for some people it’s fatal.