7 Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are serious and often difficult to diagnose. Generally, people who are struggling with their body image and relationship with food aren’t looking for help. Instead, they are most likely trying to hide their actions due to stigma and a desire to achieve a specific body image.
Eating disorders can be deadly. They have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, second only to opioid addiction. That is why it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. The earlier an eating disorder is treated, the better the recovery outcome. Unfortunately many eating disorders aren’t identified until months or years after they begin.
At CW Psychological Services, our counselors and therapists are trained at identifying and assisting clients who are struggling with eating disorders. We assist clients in the King of Prussia area and around the state of Pennsylvania. In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in February, our counselors have created a list of possible warning signs someone may have an eating disorder.
No matter when an eating disorder is identified it is important that a person receive mental health care from a trained professional.
1.) Their conversations frequently involve topics like weight, dieting, or calorie counts
People with eating disorders obsess over everything they eat. They will be hyper-focused on every calorie consumed—from a single kernel of popcorn to a full meal. Someone who has an eating disorder is taking note of everything they are putting in their mouth.
Without even realizing it, they may frequently negatively talk about their body. They might share the latest diet trend they are trying each time you are with them. They can’t help it, it is always on their mind.
2.) They won’t eat around others or cut food into small pieces
Suffers of eating disorders are often uncomfortable eating around others. They might turn down food whenever they are in social situations. Food is a source of discontent and they may feel judged or nervous in situations with food. In group eating situations, they may also cut food into several smaller bites, chew excessively, or use unnecessary condiments to give the idea that they are eating more than they are.
3.) They avoid social situations
Withdrawing from others or from activities that previously brought them joy can be a sign that someone is struggling with their mental health. If a person is struggling with their self-image or is feeling depressed, they tend to avoid social events altogether. And, as mentioned above, if food is involved, someone with an eating disorder may be more inclined to avoid the situation. If someone you care for is withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed, it is worth a conversation to check in and possibly suggest counseling or therapy resources.
4.) They are experiencing changes in mood
When we don’t get the proper amount of calories we require for our body to function at its best, we often become crabby and irritable. It is part of being human and it happens to us all. When it becomes a frequent occurrence, it can be an indication that something more serious is going on.
5.) They make frequent trips to the bathroom or often binge eat
Someone who frequently overeats, especially when stressed, and then rushes to the bathroom to eliminate the food may be struggling with Bulimia Nervosa. If you notice that a person frequently goes to the bathroom after a meal or binge eats regularly this could be a sign they are struggling.
6.) They are obsessed with exercise
Exercise is great but there is such a thing as too much exercise. A person who is struggling with their body image may stick to a rigid exercise schedule or exercise too much. If it becomes an obsession or a task they are not willing to miss occasionally that could be a sign it is a problem.
7.) They are beginning to have other health issues
Eating disorders can lead to several health problems. Excessive drying of the skin, acne issues, throat and stomach issues, fatigue, bruising, and general weakness can all be signs of an eating disorder. Often a person who is struggling with Anorexia Nervosa may experience episodes of fainting due to their limited calorie intake.
These are just a few of the many signs that a person may be struggling with an eating disorder. For more information on other signs and symptoms, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website.
If you suspect someone is struggling with an eating disorder, you must approach them with caution and sensitivity. Avoid mentioning things like weight loss or appearance and do your research ahead of time. Have a plan in place of how you may assist them in getting help.
The most important thing you can do is direct them to a trained mental health professional.
If you are struggling with your relationship with food, the National Eating Disorders Association has an online screening tool that can help determine if you should seek help.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
Counselors and associate-level clinicians at CW Psychological Services are professionally trained. We have openings for online or telehealth therapy appointments. Email us at [email protected] or call (610) 308-7575. We are here for you.