eating disorder

Subtle Signs of an Eating Disorder

According to the Eating Disorders Coalition, 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. However, despite the prevalence of these conditions, it can sometimes be challenging to spot when someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder. That’s not only because there’s a wide range of signs and symptoms, but also because people living with eating disorders may be highly secretive about their behavior.

Sadly, eating disorders may progress to a dangerous level before anyone notices something is wrong. That’s why it is essential to know what red flags to look for. In observation of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Feb. 22-28, what are some warning signs of an eating disorder?

Eating Disorders Can Be Severe

Don’t brush off an eating disorder as a fad or trend that will go away on its own. A person who has developed an eating disorder has a significant, complex condition with far-reaching ramifications on their physical and emotional health. The long-term effects of an eating disorder can be life-threatening, including malnutrition and even organ failure.  

Anyone can develop an eating disorder, but young adults can be especially vulnerable to this mental health problem, due to hormonal changes during puberty and peer pressure to maintain specific body image standards. Though eating disorders are most prominent in girls and young women, as many as one-third of men will develop an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

The primary types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

How to Recognize a Problem

Though the behavioral warning signs of an eating disorder can vary by the individual and the type of disorder they have, there are some general things to look for.

  • Fixation on body weight, calorie and fat intake
  • Feelings of guilt or self-loathing after eating
  • Low self-esteem and an unrealistic body image
  • Skipping meals entirely, or only eating small amounts
  • Unwillingness to eat in front of others
  • Making meals for other people, but not eating anything themselves
  • Preoccupation with weighing themselves and checking in the mirror for flaws
  • Mood swings
  • Cutting out entire food groups or switching diet plans to lose more weight
  • Obsession with dieting, counting calories and controlling food intake
  • Desire for perfection
  • Refusal to participate in usual activities
  • Making disparaging comments about their appearance
  • Compulsive exercise, even if they are sick or injured
  • Brittle hair and nails

If you notice a loved one exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should seek professional treatment immediately. The earlier you get help, the greater the chances of making a complete physical and mental recovery. 

Structured Treatment Plans to Meet Your Mental Health Needs

At Serene Behavioral Health, we believe everyone deserves to live their best life, but we understand maintaining optimal mental health can be challenging. If you are struggling with issues like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD and depression, trust our trained professionals to develop a customized treatment program for you. When you’re ready, please reach out to our team today.

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