Hidden Signs Of An Eating Disorder
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The earlier an eating disorder is detected and treated, the better the chances for a successful recovery. To mark National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’re highlighting hidden signs of eating disorders to encourage you or a loved one to seek help sooner.
Don’t Believe You Aren’t Worth The Cost
Treatment and recovery from an eating disorder can be expensive and time-consuming. Try not to get caught up in thinking that you are not worth the financial commitment that treatment may require. If money is an issue, talk openly with your treatment providers about it. There are often ways to get treatment that is less expensive.
How Can I Talk To My Teen About My Concerns
Talking to your teen about your concerns that he or she has an eating disorder will probably be hard. Be prepared. Your teen will probably deny he or she has a problem.
Let your teen know that the discussion is not optional. Set a time to talk with your teen and open the conversation in a loving and gentle manner. Avoid accusations or judgments but be persistent in expressing your concerns. Talk in I sentences . Avoid you statements .
Often, it helps simply to let your teen know that you are there to help and support him or her. Realize your teen is facing many changes and social pressures. Your main role may be to listen.
Here are some tips to help your teen develop a healthy attitude toward food and exercise:
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Trying New Diet Challenges With Friends
Sometimes adults with eating disorders socialize their disorder. They do this by always wanting to try some new fad diet, and making it fun by bringing others on board. So one month theyre trying the Whole 30 diet with a group of friends, and the next month theyre cutting all sugar with another group of friends. To the friends, its just a one-time, fun challenge, but to the affected individual, its a way to limit caloric intake without anyone really noticingeveryone else is doing it.
How Adult Women Can Easily Hide An Eating Disorder
When you think of eating disorders do you think that it mostly affects teenage girls? Learn how easily an eating disorder in adult women can be easily hidden.
According to an article at womhealth.org.au, Women and Eating Disorders
Why are eating disorders under-recognized in adult women?Easier to hide
If a teenager is still living at home it is more difficult to hide an eating disorder . A family member is often aware of what food is being consumed and behaviors such as bingeing, vomiting, laxative misuse and over-exercising are harder to disguise.
For older women, however, living independently can bring with it much more opportunities to hide an eating disorder. Women with bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder, for example, can now purchase their own food and consume it at a time when they wont be detected. Some women manage to keep an eating disorder hidden for many years, even from those closest to them.
Misperception that you have to be very thinMany peoples ideas of an eating disorder are influenced by characteristics of anorexia nervosa. They expect that a person with an eating disorder will be skeletal thin. Women who are of normal weight or even overweight, therefore, are not considered to have an eating disorder, even if their behavior might suggest otherwise.
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How To Stop Hiding Your Eating Disorder
Eating Disorders: Signs and Causes
The Signs Although the reasons for eating disorders are diverse, the symptoms are quite common. Some of the symptoms of an eating disorder are obsessive exercise, calorie counting, fat gram counting, starvation or restriction, a compulsive interest in health and food issues, self-induced vomiting, and the use of diet pills, laxatives or diuretics. Another symptom is a persistently negative body image expressed constantly with statements like I am so fat,I hate my body, and If I was thin everything would be better. People with eating disorders may express some of the above listed symptoms in patterns, fluctuating between what seems like healthy eating patterns and harmful ones.
Many of the symptoms of an eating disorder are also associated with a number of other psychiatric problems. Eating disorders are very frequently associated with many other psychiatric illnesses. We don’t know exactly what causes eating disorders. Many of the things that are theorized to cause them are also thought to cause other psychological problems.
Are You at Risk? Being female is the biggest risk factor in developing an eating disorder, as women suffer from either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa with a frequency nine or ten times greater than men. Beyond that, the answer is more complicated. Eating disorders are a result of social, genetic, and environmental factors.
REFERENCESa listing of scientific articles and texts used.
Psychiatrists: How To Approach A Client With A Suspected Eating Disorder
Contributor: Courtney Howard, BA, writer for Eating Disorder Hope
Once an individuals medication plan has been established, he or she likely only sees a psychiatrist for monthly check-ins to assess how the prescriptions are working and to address any concerns. This can make it difficult for psychiatrists to know what is truly going on in an individuals recovery, particularly if the client is trying to hide disordered food behaviors.
If a psychiatrist believes his or her client is struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to address it immediately. While therapists might be better off waiting until rapport is established, psychiatrists prescribing drugs to an individual who might be actively bingeing and purging do not have that luxury.
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Don’t Put The Needs Of Others Above Your Own
Many people prioritize caring for other people above making sure that their own needs are met, sometimes hurting themselves in the process. This can be especially true when you are friends with someone who also has an eating disorder. While you want to help, their stories can be triggering and/or emotionally draining. Make sure that you take care of yourself first and determine how much of yourself you can truly give to others by setting appropriate boundaries.
Getting Your Child Help
Lutter says the worst thing a parent can do is confront their child with their suspicions, as doing so can make the shame and guilt that much worse, causing a child to simply work harder at hiding their eating disorder behaviors.
I always recommend simply stating facts and observations and then asking if there is anything they can help with instead of jumping straight to an accusation, he said.
So instead of accusing the child of being anorexic, he says its better to say something like, Sarah, Ive noticed that youve only been eating egg whites and vegetables lately and youve been dancing a lot more too. Youve lost a lot of weight. Is there anything you want to talk about?
When in doubt, he said that many treatment centers will offer free evaluations. You can always schedule an evaluation if you are worried. Sometimes children will open up more to a professional.
Dowling agrees that parents should proceed with caution when expressing their concerns.
Many times, parents are so concerned that they try to scare their teen into getting help, she said. This will not work.
Instead, she encourages parents to try to meet their teens in the middle and see what steps they can take together. Teens with eating disorders are scared and they need supportive parents to slowly help them seek treatment.
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Community Discussion Share Your Thoughts Here
Who has been a part of your treatment team in your journey to eating disorder recovery?
About the Author: Courtney Howard is the Executive Assistant for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate. After obtaining her certification as a life coach, Courtney launched Lionheart Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching in 2015 and continues to be a passionate advocate for awareness and recovery.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
I Had An Eating Disorder For 7 Years And Barely Anyone Knew
Heres what we get wrong about the face of eating disorders. And why it can be so dangerous.
Food for Thought is a column that explores various aspects of disordered eating and recovery. Advocate and writer Brittany Ladin chronicles her own experiences while critiquing our cultural narratives around eating disorders.
Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one persons story.
When I was 14, I stopped eating.
Id been through a traumatic year that left me feeling entirely out of control. Restricting food quickly became a way to numb my depression and anxiety and distract myself from my trauma. I couldnt control what happened to me but I could control what I put in my mouth.
I was lucky enough to get help when I reached out. I had access to resources and support from medical professionals and my family. And yet, I still struggled for 7 years.
During that time, many of my loved ones never guessed that the entirety of my existence was spent dreading, fearing, obsessing over, and regretting food.
These are people that I spent time with that I ate meals with, went on trips with, shared secrets with. It wasnt their fault. The problem is that our cultural understanding of eating disorders is extremely limited, and my loved ones didnt know what to look for or that they should be looking for anything.
There are a few stark reasons that my eating disorder went undiscovered for so long:
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Managing Eating Disorders In Previously Overweight Patients
Although many people with overweight/obesity people have eating disorders, most research is limited to underweight patients only.23,24,32 Thus, there are few data to guide management of weight loss-related sequelae in previously overweight patients presenting with eating disorders.
In general, body fat mass, amount of relative weight loss, and appropriate hormonal levels and interactions contribute to normal menstrual function.33,34 Disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis by weight loss may be mediated by changes in gonadotropin-releasing hormone release. Typical GnRH function is pulsatile and relies on leptin and insulin-like growth factor 1 signaling.3537 Fat mass contributes to normal production of both leptin and IGF-1, and therefore loss of fat mass can disrupt the hormonal signaling underlying normal menstruation.22,38,39
Previously overweight patients follow a different course than their previously healthy weight peers in menses recovery. In one study, amenorrheic patients with a history of overweight/ obesity resumed menses at a higher weight but with similar amounts of absolute gain in weight.5 Additionally, the likelihood of menses resumption decreases with greater weight suppression and increases with greater weight gain during treatment in both groups.5
Until definitive guidelines are published, the primary care physician can use the following general treatment advice:
David Used To Make Himself Sick In The Toilets At Home And In The Office Without Others Knowing
Just like it was then, if it happens now it will be the same thing. I will come in, it will happen, go upstairs, and its, and the facts, it sounds really stupid obviously I do live at home, so my parents are around sometimes, not all the time, but the fact that the baths running means that theres, theres, you can hide it as such. Or if not I would have music blaring or something like that, because you dont want anyone to know whats going on, or you dont want anyone to know whats happening. And, and obviously like I said at its peak it was, it was at work, where the office that I work in, I work in the upstairs section so its probably about sixty of us, vast majority are women, so theres not actually many, ever many people around in the mens toilets. So its very easy to get away with it happening at work without anyone realising what was going on, and it just became a real part of my life.
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Don’t Insist That You Can Recover On Your Own
Research shows that people with eating disorders are more likely to recover with a specialized treatment team in place. In most cases, willpower, self-help books, and independent work cannot replace the professional guidance of a therapist, dietitian, and physician. These professionals have years of experience and training to help you on the road to recovery.
How Are Eating Disorders Treated
Eating disorders are best treated by a team that includes a doctor, dietitian, and therapist. Treatment includes nutrition counseling, medical care, and talk therapy . The doctor might prescribe medicine to treat binge eating, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns.
The details of the treatment depend on the type of eating disorder and how severe it is. Some people are hospitalized because of extreme weight loss and medical complications.
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Getting Help For Someone Else
It can be difficult to know what to do if you’re worried that someone has an eating disorder.
They may not realise they have an eating disorder. They may also deny it, or be secretive and defensive about their eating or weight.
Let them know you’re worried about them and encourage them to see a GP. You could offer to go along with them.
Avoiding All Things Processed
Its certainly good to limit processed foods like deli meats and packaged goods but, sadly, we do live in a world where eating absolutely no processed foods would mean to practically starve. That is why some individuals with eating disorders have a strict no-processed-foods rule, which makes it very difficult for them to consume enough caloriesespecially away from home.
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Don’t Avoid All Situations That Make You Anxious
Recovery from an eating disorder requires facing situations that you may have been avoiding, such as eating certain foods, tolerating feelings of fullness, and tolerating feelings of anxiety when you do not exercise. Work with your treatment team to develop a plan to gradually face these situations.
Damaging Mindsets That Fuel Anorexia
All-or-nothing thinking. Through this harshly critical lens, if youre not perfect, youre a total failure. You have a hard time seeing shades of gray, at least when it comes to yourself.
Emotional reasoning. You believe if you feel a certain way, it must be true. I feel fat means I am fat.I feel hopeless means youll never get better.
Musts, must-nots, and have-tos. You hold yourself to a rigid set of rules and beat yourself up if you break them.
Labeling. You call yourself names based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings. Im unhappy with how I look becomes Im disgusting. Slipping up becomes Im a failure.
Catastrophizing. You jump to the worst-case scenario. If you backslide in recovery, for example, you assume that theres no hope youll ever get better.
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Tip : Develop A Healthier Relationship With Food
Even though anorexia isnt fundamentally about food, over time youve developed harmful food habits that can be tough to break. Developing a healthier relationship with food entails:
- Getting back to a healthy weight
- Starting to eat more food
- Changing how you think about yourself and food
Let go of rigid food rules. While following rigid rules may help you feel in control, its a temporary illusion. The truth is that these rules are controlling you, not the other way around. In order to get better, youll need to let go. This is a big change that will feel scary at first, but day by day, it will get easier.
Get back in touch with your body. If you have anorexia, youve learned to ignore your bodys hunger and fullness signals. You may not even recognize them anymore. The goal is to get back in touch with these internal cues, so you can eat based on your physiological needs.
Allow yourself to eat all foods. Instead of putting certain food off limits, eat whatever you want, but pay attention to how you feel physically after eating different foods. Ideally, what you eat should leave you feeling satisfied and energized.
Get rid of your scale. Instead of focusing on weight as a measurement of self-worth, focus on how you feel. Make health and vitality your goal, not a number on the scale.
Getting past your fear of gaining weight
Getting back to a normal weight is no easy task. The thought of gaining weight is probably extremely frightening, and you may be tempted to resist.
Do Listen To Your Treatment Team
Your treatment team should be comprised of professionals who have years of training and experience with eating disorders. Listen to them when they recommend specific changes, even when it might seem scary to you. Changes such as adding a medication, adopting a meal plan, or considering a higher level of care can be important and necessary changes to your treatment plan.
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Uncomfortable Around Others And Food
Some people with an eating disorder are uncomfortable when eating around others. They may also skip meals or take only small portions of food at mealtimes. Other food rituals, such as cutting food into small pieces, excessive chewing or using a lot of condiments can also signal an eating disorder. Some sufferers may withdraw from friends and activities altogether when food is involved.