Signs of an Eating Disorder

Maybe your son or daughter disappears to the bathroom after meals, or your loved one now declares that she no longer eats meat because she wants to lose a few pounds.  Whatever the warning signs, you know that something is amiss, and your loved one needs help.  But what are the symptoms of an individual with an eating disorder?  Below is a list of some warning signs to be on the lookout for—remember that not all symptoms may be apparent in all individuals.

  • Refusal to eat, or a dramatic decrease in amount of food normally eaten
  • Denying oneself to eat food that was normally liked—some common excuses are that it’s full of fat (or fattening), unhealthy, or that he/she is trying out a new “diet”.  Many times vegetarianism is a catalyst for disordered eating.
  • Binging on unhealthy amounts of food in a sitting—this is more difficult to see as most individuals who engage in this behavior will do so in secret.
  • Hiding food/hoarding
  • Disappearing after eating (to purge food eaten)
  • Dramatic weight loss (especially in teenagers) in a short amount of time
  • Lanugo (soft, fine hair on the body where there wasn’t any before)
  • Low body temperature (will often complain of it being cold)
  • Brittle, dry hair and nails
  • Yellowed skin
  • Puffy cheeks or swollen glands (from continual throwing up)
  • Scratches/cuts on knuckles or fingers (from causing oneself to throw up)
  • Bloodshot eyes from continual throwing up—veins in the eye have actually been known to rupture from violent purging
  • Lethargic
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Secluding from family and friends
  • Spending copious amounts of time exercising and feeling he/she “has to” exercise in order to eat
  • Eating only “safe” foods (foods that the individual believes will not cause him/her to gain weight)
  • Amenorrhea in females
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate—those who compulsively exercise may claim that their low heart rate is an indication of their “health”.
  • Cognitive distortions, such as “If I eat this I will balloon up”, “I am grossly overweight”, “I don’t deserve to eat”, etc.
  • The myth behind those individuals with anorexia is that they must be bone thin and on death’s door.  While some anorexics do reach those extreme levels of malnourishment, many others are merely at a lower weight than what their body deems healthy, and can thus fall into the trap of an eating disorder.  Many bulimics also do not look sickly thin, yet their constant binging and purging takes a dramatic toll on their bodies, and inwardly they are quite ill.  The main message:  don’t judge an individual’s health from external cues, but rather on his/her behaviors, internal condition, AND mental/cognitive attitude towards food and body image.

1 thought on “Signs of an Eating Disorder

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