Eating disorders are behavioral conditions defined by severe changes to eating habits that are typically associated with distressing thoughts. Eating disorders can be extremely serious, impacting one’s physical health, mental well-being, and social functioning. Eating disorders can come with obsessive thoughts of food, physical appearance, and weight.
A person who is suffering from an eating disorder may avoid certain foods, find themselves binging, purge themselves by vomiting, misusing laxatives, compulsively exercising, and constant dissatisfaction with their appearance.
Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders can take shape in many different forms. Understanding the specific eating disorder, one is struggling with will be critical to their recovery. It is important to understand that everybody experiences behavioral conditions like eating disorders differently.
This is why it is so important to seek the help of your doctor if you are concerned you are dealing with an eating disorder.
In this section, we are going to cover a few different eating disorders and the signs and symptoms to watch for if you believe a loved one may be suffering from one.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder defined by weight loss, struggling to maintain healthy body weight, and a distorted body image. Those struggling with anorexia nervosa might exercise excessively, purge, or binge eat. The signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa can include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Becomes cold easily
- Excessively worries and talks about weight, calories, and food
- Constantly complaining about their own weight
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Developing food rituals
- Constantly claims they “aren’t hungry”
- Excessively exercises
- Appears embarrassed or afraid to eat in public
- Loss of period in women
- Resistance or inability to maintain a healthy weight
- Fearful of gaining weight
- Feeling dizzy, faint, foggy
- Hair, skin, and nails appear dry and brittle
Bulimia nervosa is a form of an eating disorder in which the person finds themselves binging on food, only to purge it later. The purging in bulimia nervosa can include a wide range of methods, including the misuse of laxatives and making oneself throw up. A few signs and symptoms to watch for with bulimia nervosa include:
- fluctuations in weight
- Frequent occurrences of bingeing, or consuming a huge amount of food, followed by purging, an action like self-induced vomiting or taking laxatives
- Avoiding eating in front of others
- Feeling unable to control binging behaviors
- Feelings of guilty or ashamed when eating
- Excessive worrying, thinking, and talking about body weight and shape
- Fixated on exercise and dieting
- Social withdrawal
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder in which the person experiences episodes that leave them feeling out of control with food. A binge eating disorder can cause a person to eat past satiety, leaving them feeling sick and ashamed. A few signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
- Frequent instances of binging
- Feeling out of control when binging
- Feeling afraid or nervous about eating in front of others
- Feeling ashamed or guilty when eating
- Eating whether one is hungry or not
- Eating past the point of being full, leaving them feeling uncomfortable
Coping with an Eating Disorder
If you believe you are dealing with an eating disorder, the absolute most important thing you can do for yourself is seeking the help of a medical professional. Eating disorders can be extremely difficult to cope with and, in some cases, may present a real danger to the person suffering from it.
For most types of Eating Disorders, the main form of treatment is psychotherapy. In some cases medications can also help. Hospitalization can be needed when someone’s weight falls so low that this becomes a medical emergency.