Does My Loved One Have an Eating Disorder?

Does My Loved One Have an Eating Disorder?Eating disorders are real diseases that start in the mind and become physical. If left untreated they can lead to serious long-term health complications and even death. One of the psychological effects of this deadly condition is a high level of denial. Those suffering from disorders like anorexia, bulimia or binge eating will often hide their disease, and they may be unable to even admit to themselves that they need help.

It often takes the intervention of friends and loved ones to help those suffering from eating disorders get the help they so desperately need. Identifying these conditions can be difficult, and knowing how best to help someone wrestling with them can be even more difficult.

Identifying Anorexia Nervosa in a Loved One

Anorexia nervosa is a condition in which a person does not eat enough food to be healthy. In most cases they have developed irrational beliefs about their body. They believe they are overweight even when they are clearly underweight. Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include the following:

  • Emaciation (extreme weight loss)
  • Obsession with thinness
  • Unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight
  • Ceased menstruation in females
  • Yellow and dry skin
  • Constipation

The disconnection from reality related to eating disorders is clearly a psychological illness, but the effects of an eating disorder cause serious physiological problems. Extended malnutrition can lead to the following:

  • Muscle wasting
  • Heart and other organ damage
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Lethargy
  • Death

Identifying Bulimia Nervosa in a Loved One

Individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa will compulsively overeat and then compensate by inducing vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics or engaging in excessive exercise or fasting. This “binge/purge” cycle causes severe damage to the person psychologically and physically. Signs of bulimia nervosa include the following:

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Damaged teeth
  • Acid reflux disorder
  • Various gastrointestinal distress
  • Dehydration

Individuals who struggle with bulimia lose control of their eating and lose control of their need to punish themselves. The compulsive aspect of this disease is clearly psychological, but the process of bingeing and purging does serious damage to the person’s physical health.

Identifying Binge Eating and Other Non-Specific Eating Disorders

Binge eating disorder is a condition in which a person compulsively overeats but does not follow with excessive exercise or purging. People struggling with binge eating disorder tend to be severely overweight or obese. This leads to a host of health problems.

There are other eating disorders referred to as “eating disorders not otherwise specified” (EDNOS.) The majority of people seeking help for eating disorders are diagnosed with this type of condition. Eating is both a physical and psychological process. Slight changes in brain chemistry tell people when they need to eat or when they have eaten enough. Some people’s brains are more sensitive to these chemical changes than others, and the spikes can lead to addiction.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Though there are many aspects of these disorders that remain mysterious to psychologists, successful treatment can been achieved through the following:

  • Personal counseling or psychotherapy
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Close medical monitoring
  • Support group meetings
  • Medication

Find Help for Your Loved One’s Eating Disorder

If you are concerned that a loved one may have an eating disorder, please call our toll-free helpline any time. Our specially trained counselors are ready to answer all of your questions about eating disorders. We can help you identify an eating disorder, we can help prepare you to confront your loved one about his or her disorder and we can teach you how to support them through their recovery. Eating disorders are extremely dangerous and nearly impossible to treat without professional treatment, but recovery is possible with the right help.