Eating disorders manifest in different ways among different people. However, there are certain common red flags that can signal a problem is developing. If you recognize some or all of the following warning signs, it may be time to seek help for your loved ones.
Unhealthy Focus on Body Image
People with eating disorders are extremely critical of their own bodies. They may spend lots of time looking in the mirror worrying about their appearance, and frequently make negative comments about specific perceived flaws. They often have a distorted image of themselves despite reassurances from friends, family, and partners. Some individuals will wear baggy clothes to conceal their body shape.
Changes in Eating Patterns
Sudden changes in eating habits can signal the onset of an eating disorder. Some people will frequently make excuses to skip meals or attempt to avoid eating in front of others entirely. Many will suddenly claim to dislike foods they previously loved. Others will develop rituals around eating, such as eating extremely slowly or cutting food into tiny pieces. Conversely, certain individuals may binge on sweets and other unhealthy foods and attempt to conceal any evidence from friends and family.
Preoccupation with Diet & Nutrition
A sudden, borderline obsessive preoccupation with counting calories and avoiding foods perceived as unhealthy can often indicate eating-related issues. People with eating disorders tend to view nutritional choices as very black-and-white, and will form strong opinions as to whether certain foods are healthy or unhealthy, safe or unsafe. Some individuals may suddenly decide to become vegetarian or vegan in an attempt to limit calorie intake—however, they will often neglect to include a sufficient amount of fats and other essential nutrients in their diet.
Many individuals with eating disorders develop compulsive exercise habits, and will spend hours training in a rigid, ritualistic manner. Often, they’ll fixate on the amount of calories burned or the total time they’ve spent working out. Certain people may become extremely flustered if their fitness routine is compromised, which can cause them to eat less than normal in an attempt to compensate for having missed a workout.
Physical & Behavioral Changes
Certain physical and behavioral changes can indicate the presence of an eating disorder. Individuals often become depressed and may withdraw from their family and friends. Anxiety and irritability are also common, as is losing interest in previously enjoyable activities. Greying skin, irregular (or absent) menstrual cycles, and fainting spells or low blood pressure can all be physical symptoms of malnutrition. Many individuals will seem constantly fatigued and in overall poor health.
While only a qualified health professional can diagnose an eating disorder with certainty, if somebody you care about exhibits several of these symptoms, chances are they may need help. Contact Avalon Hills to learn about how our Treat to Outcome philosophy and personalized treatment programs give our clients the best chance of long-term success.