Eating Disorders: Look for These Signs

According to the National institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 women will struggle with disordered eating at some point in her life. That means 20% of women are fighting a battle that isn’t regularly talked about in the media, or in magazines, or really at all. Teams are in place to help girls with these struggles, and different groups have tried to pinpoint the causes of eating disorders. But, do we actually know what indicators to look for in those who struggle with disordered eating?

Some of these signs may seem more obvious than others, and remember, just because one or more of these signs seems present doesn’t necessarily confirm that someone is dealing with an eating disorder.

If you suspect that someone is dealing with disordered eating, be very careful in how you choose to address this suspicion. Even if what you suspect is true, you could do more harm than help if you address this issue inappropriately. In a later blogpost, I’ll provide information on how to approach a loved one who you suspect is struggling with an eating disorder.

Common Signs of Anorexia:

  • Quick or dramatic weight loss
  • Strong concern about weight, food, calories, or dieting
  • Food rituals like excessive chewing or rearranging food on a plate
  • Withdrawal from friends and regular hobbies
  • Expressing anxiety related to weight gain or concerns of weight gain
  • Frequently talking about feeling or being “fat” regardless of current weight loss
  • Offering excuses to keep from eating, skipping meals, or avoiding scenarios with food
  • Playing with food during meals as a distraction

Common Signs of Bulimia:

  • Eating a larger than normal amount of food during meals
  • Immediate and frequent trips to the bathroom following meals
  • Eating alone and developing rituals for binge-purge sessions
  • Stained teeth over a short amount of time
  • Symptoms of dehydration
  • Withdrawal from friends and regular hobbies
  • Evidence of purging behaviors, abuse of laxatives or diuretics
  • Excessive exercise regardless of injuries

Keep in mind, these are just some of the signs. Also, know that signs are different than symptoms. I will address “Symptoms” in a later blogpost. For now, keep an eye out for these signs, and if you suspect someone is dealing with an eating disorder, always address them with love and compassion. Be prepared for an uncompassionate response, as they may not be in a healthy place where they are ready to talk about it. Most importantly, be non-judgmental and don’t give up.

A great resource to check out on these topics is the National Eating Disorders Association.


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