How To Recognise The Early Signs Of An Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that cause people to develop extremely unhealthy eating habits and have distorted views of their appearance and body shape. Without help, eating disorders can have a devastating impact on a persons life and can even be fatal.
If youre worried about someone, its really important to be able to recognise the early signs of an eating disorder so you can spot behaviours and support them to get the help they need.
Here, we outline these early signs of an eating disorder to be aware of, as well as some of the specific symptoms of different eating disorders, before providing information on the support we can provide at Life Works.
You Are More Than Your Weight/fitness Routine/the Food On Your Plate
Talk about her character, not her physical appearance. We so often resort to looksfrom body shape to hairstyles to clothingwhen starting a conversation with someone. Compliment your friend on her intelligence, her kindness, and her courage. She is already hyper-focused on her body, so even if you think telling her You look healthy! or You are beautiful! is helpful, keep the focus on her internal values instead. Remind her how brave she is for choosing recovery and healing.
What Tests Are Used To Diagnose Or Assess Anorexia
Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose anorexia, a healthcare provider may use various diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, to rule out any medical conditions that could cause weight loss and to evaluate the physical damage weight loss and starvation may have caused.
Tests to rule out weight-loss causing illness or to assess anorexia side effects may include:
- Vitamin D levels.
- A pregnancy test in people assigned female at birth who are of childbearing age.
- Hormone tests if evidence of menstrual problems in people assigned female at birth and measuring testosterone in people assigned male at birth.
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A Sudden Interest In Exercise
Exercise is healthy! We should all strive to be as active as possible.
That said, excessive fixation on exercise can be a sign that someone is suffering from a condition referred to as anorexia athletica or hypergymnasia. This condition is common amongst athletes but also amongst average people who become fixated on the gym.
These people may realize that cutting calories alone isnt sustainable, but cutting calories in excess while exercising in excess will do the trick. It becomes an unhealthy fixation that can slowly wear the body down.
What Are Some Ways To Overcome An Eating Disorder
7 Proven ways to overcome your eating disorder 1. Talk it out to a friend, family or professional 2. Enroll in an eating disorder program and therapy sessions 3. Accept and understand yourself 4. Exercise and associate with like-minded people 5. Motivate yourself constantly 6. Change your diet 7. Develop a feeding/ lifestyle schedule
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Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder is a newly recognized eating disorder diagnosis. This disorder was previously known as selective eating disorder. It has been related to anorexia because both eating disorders involve limitations in the amount and types of food consumed.
However, ARFID doesnt include any feelings of distress regarding body image, size or weight like anorexia does. ARFID is often considered an extreme form of picky eating. Some children are finicky eaters and could be diagnosed with ARFID because they dont consume enough calories to develop and grow.
Adults can be diagnosed with ARFID as well, and in addition to not developing physically, they may have trouble with maintaining basic bodily functions. A case of ARFID may result in serious medical consequences because the body is denied essential nutrients to function and develop properly.
What Diet Are You On
Our society praises weight loss and people constantly want to know about the newest and best way to lose weight. However, if a person with an eating disorder is losing weight and gets positive feedback from other people about weight loss, this can encourage disordered eating behaviors.
It is best not to comment on appearance at all. Focus on being happy to see the person or the person being in a good mood. Alternatively, ask about other non-appearance related qualities of the person.
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I’m Here For You And I’m Not Going To Leave
We all need someone there sometimes. Everyone needs to talk to someone sometimes. And yes, we know it’s getting a bit repetitive and boring. But the same fears, the same struggles come up again and again. And knowing that someone is there for us to listen, to find distraction or just to talk to about random things it all means more than you could ever imagine.
As I’ve said before, and I won’t stop saying it recovery is difficult, it’s tiring and stressful. You put your heart and soul in trying to eat again and it takes the life out of you. Don’t mistake not showering, not brushing teeth or hair, or any other self care for laziness. They’re exhausted and need a friend, not a critic. It’ll get better, it just takes time. Don’t judge what you haven’t experienced.
There’s the everlasting fear that people find the constant “whining” about food/body image will scare them off. Don’t let it scare you off, stick with your friend. It’s going to be worth it when the day comes that they walk up to you to ask if you fancy one of their home made cupcakes and you both delve into one.
I Might Not Understand But If You Need Someone To Talk To I Will Help As Much As I Can
We don’t need you to understand. And you don’t understand an eating disorder just because you dieted for a month to lose weight.
Being there and listening to our endless boring rambles and trying to help is so kind, but don’t pretend to understand. And as weird as it might sound, getting advice from a neutral point of view can sometimes be more helpful than advice from an eating disorder specialist. Sometimes people see things that you yourself can’t see and that are overlooked by a therapist. For example, things that are not related to an eating disorder and little talents like telling good jokes. Tell them that they’re good at those little things. Talk to them. Give advice that has been helpful to you. It might not seem applicable to the situation in your eyes, but it can always be helpful.
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Check Your Judgment At The Door: What You Should Not Say
Eating disorders may seem to be all about outward appearances, but theyre actually a result of whats going on inside. People who deal with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating hope to gain some measure of control over their feelings of sadness, loneliness or self-hate.2
And the brain itself plays a role too. Researchers found that people with eating disorders show an abnormal response to dopamine the chemical that tells our brain when something feels good causing some patients to experience extra doses of dopamine when they eat and others to actually endure anxiety when they eat.4
With these facts in mind, do not say:2
Who Gets Eating Disorders
The prevailing stereotype is that eating disorders only affect thin affluent white teenage females. As a consequence, anyone who doesnt fit this stereotype may not recognize their eating disorder, and their symptomatic behaviors may fail to attract the attention of family and friends. Research has shown that when presented with a set of symptoms consistent with an eating disorder, even mental health professionals are less likely to assign a diagnosis to a patient portrayed as African American than to one portrayed as Caucasian or Hispanic.
Eating disorders affect people of all sizes, ages, genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses, and are not always expressed in stereotyped ways.
Eating disorders often express differently in males, with males commonly reporting greater concerns around muscularity. Since this attitude runs counter to that most commonly seen in females with an eating disorder , males may not realize they have an eating disorder.
While patients with anorexia nervosa are expected to always appear very thin, atypical anorexia nervosa can occur in people who are larger. This means that larger patients who remain in an overweight category despite losing a significant amount of weight can exhibit the same medical issues as a patient who meets the full criteria for anorexia nervosa. Yet merely due to their size, they rarely get the proper medical or mental health attention than thinner patients do.
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Warning Signs Of An Eating Disorder In Someone Else
It can often be very difficult to identify that a loved one or friend has developed an eating disorder.
Warning signs to look out for include:
- dramatic weight loss
- lying about how much and when they’ve eaten, or how much they weigh
- eating a lot of food very fast
- going to the bathroom a lot after eating, often returning looking flushed
- exercising too much
- cutting food into small pieces or eating very slowly
- wearing loose or baggy clothes to hide their weight loss
Dealing With Eating Disorders In The Home
As a parent, there are many things you can do to support your childs eating disorder recoveryeven if they are still resisting treatment.
Set a positive example. You have more influence than you think. Instead of dieting, eat nutritious, balanced meals. Be mindful about how you talk about your body and your eating. Avoid self-critical remarks or negative comments about others appearance. Instead, focus on the qualities on the inside that really make a person attractive.
Make mealtimes fun. Try to eat together as a family as often as possible. Even if your child isnt willing to eat the food youve prepared, encourage them to join you at the table. Use this time together to enjoy each others company, rather than talking about problems. Meals are also a good opportunity to show your child that food is something to be enjoyed rather than feared.
Avoid power struggles over food. Attempts to force your child to eat will only cause conflict and bad feelings and likely lead to more secrecy and lying. That doesnt mean you cant set limits or hold your child accountable for their behavior. But dont act like the food police, constantly monitoring your childs behavior.
Do whatever you can to promote self-esteem. in your child in intellectual, athletic, and social endeavors. Give boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement. A well-rounded sense of self and solid self-esteem are perhaps the best antidotes to disordered eating.
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The Dos And Donts: If Someone Tells You They Have An Eating Disorder
If someone confides in you that they have an eating disorder, it may be difficult to know what to say. Even those with the best intentions may accidentally say something triggering or painful.
From the sufferers standpoint, theres nothing worse than telling someone and receiving a poor reaction. Just the act of sharing that huge secret is courageous and terrifying.
They are extremely vulnerable after sharing this information and the last thing they need is to feel insulted or misunderstood. If you want to be helpful, start by trying to understand a few basics facts about eating disorders:
Take Our 15 Question Quiz: Is Oa For You
Do I eat when Im not hungry, or not eat when my body needs nourishment?
Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until Im stuffed or even feel sick?
Do I have feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat?
Do I eat sensibly in front of others and then make up for it when I am alone?
Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life?
When my emotions are intensewhether positive or negativedo I find myself reaching for food?
Do my eating behaviors make me or others unhappy?
Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions to try to control my weight?
Do I fast or severely restrict my food intake to control my weight?
Do I fantasize about how much better life would be if I were a different size or weight?
Do I need to chew or have something in my mouth all the time: food, gum, mints, candies or beverages?
Have I ever eaten food that is burned, frozen or spoiled from containers in the grocery store or out of the garbage?
Are there certain foods I cant stop eating after having the first bite?
Have I lost weight with a diet or period of control only to be followed by bouts of uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?
Do I spend too much time thinking about food, arguing with myself about whether or what to eat, planning the next diet or exercise cure, or counting calories?
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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.
I Know This Is Difficult But I Am Proud Of You
Here at Center for Discovery you will often hear the phrase validate, validate, validate being spoken throughout our houses. We want to validate just how trying the experience of suffering from an eating disorder is while at the same time letting clients know that they are making positive strides in the right direction.
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How To Tell If Someone Has An Eating Disorder: Know The Risks
Be aware of eating disorder risk
Eating disorders are complex mental health illnesses with very serious physical side effects.
Knowing what to look for early on can help get you or your loved one the expedient help they need in order to recover. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin to assess symptoms and behaviors:
Cooking Elaborate Meals For Others
Although people with anorexia may refuse food themselves, they are often eager to see others eat, sometimes going so far as to prepare elaborate meals for friends and family. This may be a form of vicarious pleasure, or eating “through” others.
Similar behavior was observed in the famous Minnesota Starving Experiment, conducted in the mid-1940s. Volunteers who were semi-starved and lost more than 25% of their body weight became obsessed with food and eating. Several of the men became collectors of cookbooks and recipes, a behavior that has been noted in people with anorexia as well.
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Tips For Talking To Someone Who Has An Eating Disorder
Focus on specific times when you felt concerned about the persons eating behavior. Explain that you think these behaviors may indicate that there is a problem.
, but respect his or her privacy. Eating disorders can be a cry for help, so the individual will likely appreciate that you care enough to say something.
Use I statements like, Im concerned about you because you refuse to eat, or, It worries me to hear you vomiting, as opposed to you statements such as, You just need to eat, or, Youre acting irresponsibly, which place blame on the person and can cause him or her to feel guilty.
Try not to criticize the persons eating habits or demand that he or she change. People with eating disorders are usually attempting to gain control because they feel they dont have it. Trying to trick or force them into eating can make things worse.
Avoid commenting on how the person looks. This person is already overly focused on his or her body, so even a compliment can reinforce the obsession with body image and weight.
Try not to give simple solutions such as, If youd just stop, everything would be fine! There is no simple solution to a serious problem like an eating disorder.
What Are The Different Types Of Eating Disorders
The most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition lists four primary diagnoses that affect adolescents and adults:
- Other specified feeding and eating disorder and unspecified feeding and eating disorders
This last category exists because many people with eating disorders do not fully meet the criteria for one of the other three main disorders. They may present with symptoms similar to one or the other or a combination of them. Furthermore, the line between disorder and well-being is not well-defined: between the extremes, there is a group of people who suffer from various degrees of disordered eating but are not diagnosable. These people may suffer similarly to those who meet full criteria and more often go untreated.
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Common Types Of Eating Disorders
Although the term eating is in the name, eating disorders are about more than food. Theyre complex mental health conditions that often require the intervention of medical and psychological experts to alter their course.
These disorders are described in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition .
In the United States alone, an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men have or have had an eating disorder at some point in their life .
This article describes 6 of the most common types of eating disorders and their symptoms.
Eating disorders are a range of psychological conditions that cause unhealthy eating habits to develop. They might start with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape.
In severe cases, eating disorders can cause serious health consequences and may even result in death if left untreated.
Those with eating disorders can have a variety of symptoms. However, most include the severe restriction of food, food binges, or purging behaviors like vomiting or over-exercising.
Although eating disorders can affect people of any gender at any life stage, theyre most often reported in adolescents and young women. In fact, up to 13% of youth may experience at least one eating disorder by the age of 20 .
Summary Eating disorders are mental health conditions marked by an obsession with food or body shape. They can affect anyone but are most prevalent among young women.