Recognizing Early Signs of an Eating Disorder

Recognizing early signs of an eating disorderIn today’s world there is a great deal of focus on appearance in newspapers, magazines, television, movies and the social networking. How people look, what people are wearing, who has gotten too thin, who has gotten fat, who has had cosmetic surgery are all issues that concentrate more on how a person looks than how they act or contribute to society. With such a considerable focus on external appearance it is no surprise that over eight million Americans have an eating disorder with women representing the vast majority of those suffering.

Types and Causes of Eating Disorders

The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia is also referred to as the “starving disease,” because a person literally starves themselves to maintain an unrealistic and unhealthy body image. Bulimia is also referred to as “binging and purging,” because a person eats excessively (binges) and then rids themselves (purges) of what they consumed. At the core of an eating disorder is a person’s fervent belief that he or she is not good enough. While there is no one set of contributors to eating disorder, some factors that lead to eating disorders include the following:

  • Genetics: People whose parents or siblings have an eating disorder seem to be particularly vulnerable
  • Emotions: People who suffer with an eating disorder often have low self-esteem, difficulty maintaining healthy relationships and expect perfection in themselves and others
  • Culture: “Thin is in” is a motto that our culture adheres to and that has a strong influence on individuals to “do what it takes” to get and stay thin

Early Signs of an Eating Disorder

There are some warning signs that are unique to anorexia and bulimia, but for anyone suffering with either disorder keep an eye out for the following early signs of an eating disorder:

  • Constant focus on appearance evidence by spending a great deal of time looking in the mirror, being critical about physical characteristics and frequently trying different hairstyles, nail polish colors or and clothes
  • Frequently talking about food in terms of calories rather than nutrition
  • Becoming distant from friends and family
  • Lack of eye contact when speaking with others about eating concerns
  • Avoiding sitting with the family at meal time by making excuses of being too busy or having other obligations
  • Being compulsive about eating or food choices
  • Going to the bathroom frequently and almost always after eating
  • Excessive exercise
  • Being extremely tired, irritable and increasingly withdrawn

No one wants to admit that someone they love has an eating disorder, but the most important thing that you can do is act quickly. Do not deny what you are seeing, and do not rationalize the behaviors you are witnessing; seek help now. Getting help early is important for the health of your loved one.

Get Help for Eating Disorders

The sooner you can get help for yourself or someone with an eating disorder the more successful recovery is likely to be. Call our toll-free number any time; we are available 24 hours a day. Receive confidential advice and answers to your questions. We want to help you find the right treatment program to handle eating disorders and can provide you with options, information about insurance and recovery resources.