25 Potential Signs of Eating Disorder On The Way…
But first, before moving forward to learn of these common warning signs that can alert us to the presence of a possible eating disorder and need for help… a few words of caution for us all.
Eating disorders are really quite complex and serious; potentially life-threatening illnesses; incorporating various types and spectrum; arising from a combination of many factors [behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, biological, social]; in which warning signs can be highly variable or even absent at times.
Fortunately, though, there are at least some common “Red Flags“ to be aware of. However, be aware, also: such ‘signs’ are not automatically indicative of an actual eating disorder [signs may be attributed to other reasons, conditions/illnesses, medications, etc.]… and not all, nor any, visible signs must be present for it to be an eating disorder [ED]. Further complicating matters, people with ED may go to great lengths to keep any/all ‘flags’ out of sight.
And speaking of those FLAGS… how about we take a look at many of them here and now!
25 different warning signs* commonly identified that may signal the onset or presence of an eating disorder, which shall include: 7 physical signs, 7 psychological signs, and 11 behavioral signs; as provided via source: the National Eating Disorders Coalition [NEDC] of Australia:
PHYSICAL Warning Signs” (per NEDC)
►Rapid weight loss or frequent weight changes
►Loss or disturbance of menstruation in girls & women; decreased libido in men
►Fainting or dizziness
►Feeling tired & not sleeping well
►Lethargy & low energy
►Signs of damage due to vomiting including swelling around cheeks or jaw, calluses on knuckles, damage to teeth, bad breath
►Feeling cold most of the time, even in warm weather
PSYCHOLOGICAL Warning Signs” (per NEDC)
►Preoccupation with eating, food, body shape & weight
►Feeling anxious &/or irritable around meal times
►Feeling ‘out of control’ around food
►‘Black and white’ thinking; e.g. rigid thoughts about food being ‘good’ or ‘bad’
►A distorted body image
►Using food as a source of comfort; e.g. eating as a way to deal with boredom, stress or depression
►Using food as self-punishment; e.g. refusing to eat due to depression, stress or other emotional reasons
BEHAVIORAL Warning Signs” (per NEDC)
►Dieting behavior; e.g. fasting, counting calories/kilojoules, avoiding food groups such as fats & carbohydrates
►Eating in private; avoiding meals with other people
►Evidence of binge eating; e.g. disappearance &/or hoarding of food
►Frequent trips to the bathroom during or shortly after meals
►Vomiting or using laxatives, enemas, appetite suppressants or diuretics
►Changes in clothing style; e.g. wearing baggy clothes
►Compulsive or excessive exercising; e.g. exercising in bad weather, continuing to exercise when sick or injured, experiencing distress if exercise is not possible
►Changes in food preferences; e.g. claiming to dislike foods previously enjoyed, sudden preoccupation with ‘healthy eating’ or replacing meals with fluids)
►Obsessive rituals around food preparation & eating; e.g. eating very slowly, cutting food into very small pieces, insisting that meals are served at exactly the same time every day
►Extreme sensitivity to comments about body shape, weight, eating & exercise habits
►Secretive behavior around food; e.g. saying they have eaten when they haven’t, hiding uneaten food in their rooms
*NOTE: The NEDC recommends that if you have recognized one or more of the above signs or symptoms in someone you know, in whom a potential eating disorder (ED) might be the case, you should seek help immediately. And you may wish to consult your local general practitioner (GP) &/or contact an appropriate support line specializing in ED. Examples include:
⇒The Butterfly Foundation (NEDC of Australia)
Reach out. Seek help. Find hope.
– – –
[ The last week of February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week! ]