Eating disorders can be a difficult topic to talk about, but it’s important to shed light on the subject as early detection and intervention can significantly increase the chance of recovery. If you suspect someone you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, there are some warning signs to look out for.
Now, this isn’t meant to be a definitive checklist as every eating disorder is unique and people may not show all the symptoms at once. However, it does provide a general overview of the types of behaviors and attitudes that may indicate a problem.
Firstly, watch out for emotional and behavioral changes:
- If someone is preoccupied with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting, and is constantly talking about them
- Refusing to eat certain foods or restricting entire categories of food
- Food rituals such as eating only particular foods or food groups excessive chewing, or not allowing foods to touch
- Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
- Withdrawing from usual friends and activities
- Extreme concern with body size and shape
Some of these behaviors might be mild and not very concerning, but when behaviors like these begin to impact your quality of life or your loved one’s quality of life and impact your/their ability to do things, that is a time to reach out for support.
Another area to keep an eye on is physical symptoms. People with eating disorders may experience:
- Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
- They may complain of stomach cramps, constipation, acid reflux, or experience menstrual irregularities
- They may also have difficulties concentrating, and abnormal laboratory findings such as anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels, low potassium, and low white and red blood cell counts
- Watch for dizziness, fainting, and feeling cold all the time
- Sleep problems
- Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints (a result of inducing vomiting),
- Dental problems such as enamel erosion, cavities, discoloration of teeth from vomiting, and tooth sensitivity
- Dry skin and hair, brittle nails, or muscle weakness
- Poor wound healing, and impaired immune functioning
Remember, early intervention is key to recovery, and seeking help from a medical professional or a certified eating disorder professional (CEDS) can make a huge difference in the outcome. They can support you or your loved one, seek help and offer guidance throughout the journey to recovery.