Suffering from anorexia. Girl is trying to put a pea on the fork

How to Spot an Eating Disorder

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An eating disorder, no matter the degree, requires professional treatment. But how do you know if someone has an eating disorder? How will you know if you have one?

Five million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Fortunately, you can easily find a clinic for binge eating disorder and anorexia that offers the treatments and services you need. However, how will you know if you or someone you love needs therapy?

Individuals who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia may show a combination of symptoms. Sometimes, people may not show any sign at all. In most cases, eating disorders have taxing effects on health such as major malnutrition and organ damage or even death.

Prevent these catastrophic effects by getting help early. See if the individual has any or most of the following signs or symptoms:

Physical changes

The most apparent change in a person with an eating disorder is the weight, be it weight loss or gain. But rapid weight changes are not the only signs; there are also:

  • Evidence of vomiting (swelling in cheeks or jaw, calluses on knuckles, teeth damage)
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Amenorrhea or the absence of menstruation
  • Low energy
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Disturbed sleep

The three major eating disorders, which are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, often share the same symptoms. In anorexia nervosa, drastic weight loss is the most obvious sign, along with pale or dry skin, trouble sleeping, thin hair, amenorrhea, and weak muscles. On the other hand, people who suffer from bulimia nervosa often have signs of forced vomiting on their fingers, mouth, and teeth.

Binge-eating disorders are more difficult to spot since they do not necessarily lose weight, but patients are usually overweight or obese.

Behavioral and psychological changes

Anorexia nervosa

  • Obsession with self-image; often think they are “fat”
  • Avoiding carbohydrate-rich foods
  • Wearing baggy clothes
  • Excessive exercising
  • Eating in private or refusal to join family meals
  • Frequent checking of weight
  • Irritability and depression

Bulimia nervosa

  • Binge eating followed by vomiting and/or exercise
  • Buying or taking large quantities of food
  • Being in the bathroom too long after meals
  • Frequent purchase of laxatives
  • Irritability and depression

Binge-eating disorder

  • Eating even when full or not hungry
  • Rapid eating
  • Eating in private
  • Feelings of depression, shame, and guilt
  • Frequent dieting
  • Feeling out of control

How to seek help

Girl with eating disorder seeking help

If you recognize some of these symptoms in yourself or in a friend or family member, the best course of action is to seek medical help as soon as you can. If left untreated, eating disorders can lead to serious medical problems. If you or your loved one is not ready to seek professional help, confide in a trusted person that can help you take steps to treatment.

However, some people with eating disorders are good at hiding their behavior and are reluctant to let anyone know about it. If you suspect that they are suffering from an eating disorder, have a sit-down discussion to express your concern. Let them know that you are there to provide support and comfort. Then, encourage them to seek medical treatment.

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