Knowing How and When to Detect an Eating Disorder
It is understandable when you hear people want to lose weight, and in general you’d expect them to do take a controlled and measured approach with their diet plan. This isn’t the case however for those suffering with eating disorders, where situations can rapidly escalate into life threatening scenarios. This is why it is important as a family member or a close friend to be aware of your loved one’s eating disorder at an early stage; the sooner the illness is recognised the easier the road to recovery will be.
This article will cover the general symptoms of people suffering from eating disorders, with relation to their physical, psychological as well as behavioural welfare. It is also important to note that these three types of symptoms often come hand in hand, meaning you shouldn’t focus solely on one but instead look for combinations of the three. If you note these three symptoms, you will be able to detect the eating disorder.
Physical Signs of Eating Disorder
Possibly the most obvious sign with someone suffering from an eating disorder, there are a number of different symptoms you should be looking out for:
- A significant loss in weight/body mass.
- Women may experience irregularities in their menstrual cycle.
- Phases of light-headedness/fainting
- Extensive fatigue periods/lack of motivation to do previously enjoyed activities.
- Intolerance of cold
- Damage to teeth/puffy face/skin problems
- You can have a look at this article for skin problems
Psychological Signs of Eating Disorder
As well as physical signs, people with eating disorders may also show signs of problematic psychological behaviour which aren’t always as easy to recognise:
- A severely distorted self-body perspective (the belief that one overweight when really they are the opposite)
- Periods of irritability
- High levels of anxiety around meal times
- Increased sensitivity to comments made about one’s physical appearance
- Strong fear of gaining weight
- Low self-esteem
- A fairly categorical outlook to life (i.e. things being only good or bad, nothing in-between)
- Feelings of little to no self-control in one’s life
- Signs of dejection and apprehension
Behavioural Signs of Eating Disorder
In association with psychological symptoms, altered behavioural symptoms may also come about as a result of eating disorders. These are often slightly more noticeable than psychological symptoms, as these actions will be apparent in social situations. However, one suffering from an eating disorder will do everything in their power to conceal the crisis in their life, which is why you should be looking out for the following behaviours:
- Obsessive behaviour over body and weight (lengthy periods of looking at oneself in the mirror/ regularly observing one’s weight)
- Exaggerated phases of dieting/close likeness to starvation mode
- Compulsive regulation over meal planning and preparation
- Regular trips to the toilet after meal times (to purge)
- Denial of any appetite
- Change of clothing style, possibly loosely fitted clothing to help conceal any dramatic loss in weight
- Avoiding communal eating occasions for fear of people seeing how little/slowly they eat
- General social withdrawal, frequently due to low self-esteem and/or depression
- Evidence of self-harm, often covered up as ‘accidents’
You may like our article about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
These are all just common symptoms you can be expect to experience from someone suffering with an eating disorder, however you may discover alternative symptoms which should still be handled with the utmost concern.
A key point to acknowledge is that many people with eating disorders may not even know they have such an illness, or if they do a common coping mechanism is to go to great measures to hide any signs of their illness, or to deny that there is a problem. Don’t just take a passive approach when handling the situation; or else you may find the point of return will loom ever closer on the horizon.