Eating disorders aren’t biased, they affect people of every age, race, gender, etc. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide. Given this percentage, 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. The most common eating disorders diagnosed are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, but there are others as well. Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with disordered eating that you can look out for in your loved ones.
Behavior and attitudes that indicate weight loss, dieting, and control of food tend to be some of the most common primary concerns for diagnosing an eating disorder. If your loved one seems preoccupied with weight, food, calories, and dieting this is often an early sign. This can sometimes be exhibited in a refusal to eat certain foods, such as restricting carbohydrates or foods they deem to be too high in sugar or fat.
People with disordered eating may appear uncomfortable eating around others, even family or friends. They can adopt food rituals such as only eating particular foods or food groups (vegetables, condiments, etc.), excessively chewing each bite, or not allowing foods to touch on their plate. Often, the symptoms don’t present themselves just around eating but include withdrawal from friends and activities, extreme mood swings, frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws, and extreme concern with body size and shape.
Physical symptoms can sometimes be easier to notice, especially if you don’t see your loved one as frequently. The most obvious would be noticeable weight fluctuations, both up and down, over time. In girls and women, eating disorders can lead to menstrual irregularities such as missing or infrequent periods. Another common physical side effect is impaired immune function – this can cause frequent colds or prolonged illness due to the body’s lack of nutrients from disordered eating.
Depending on the nature of their eating disorder (bulimia vs. anorexia) certain physical symptoms can also present themselves. With anorexia, it can be thinning hair or hair loss as well as exhaustion or an unwillingness to engage in activities due to low energy. For bulimia sufferers, sores on the knuckles or fingers or damage to the teeth or gums from self-induced vomiting are common.
If you are concerned that a loved one is being affected by one of these disorders, it’s important to seek treatment with a licensed behavioral health counselor. Treatment for eating disorders has advanced significantly and can often be remedied with the right balance of counseling and other options. Believe in feeling better, CHP has behavioral health specialists at all of its clinic locations, stop by or make an appointment with one of our providers today.