A person suffering from an eating disorder builds an unhealthy relationship with food. They tend to eat more than what is necessary or less of what is required to nourish the body. It is a severe medical problem that can be detected and treated more quickly in the early stages. If not appropriately addressed, it can lead to detrimental long-term health consequences or mortality.
People commonly misperceive that individuals with eating disorders are “vain” or that eating disorders are all about wanting to look thin like models in the magazines. — Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C
Eating disorders do not occur in one kind of person only. A person of any age, gender, race, size, or social status can experience having an eating disorder at any point in their life. Experts have yet to identify the exact reasons behind the occurrence of eating disorders.
Experts assess particular symptoms that can be a manifestation of the disorder. It manifests itself in physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms. However, these signs should not be ticked off one by one like a checklist to diagnose a disorder. A person diagnosed with an eating disorder can either possess one symptom or a combination.
Physical signs hinting eating disorders may include bodily changes in the patient’s body. Aside from the significant, frequent weight gain or loss, other symptoms may include dizziness, lethargy, and low energy. People with this disorder also have chronic tiredness and cannot sleep well. Even during warm weather, they feel cold most of the time. In females, they may experience irregular menstruation flow while men have decreased libido.
It is challenging to detect psychological symptoms in anybody suffering from an eating disorder. Usually, these warning signs manifest in the patients’ behaviors and daily conversations.
Patients suffering from eating disorders have a preoccupation or obsession with food and weight. They perceive food to be only either good or bad.
For some people, they use food as sources of comfort and eat their feelings, stress, boredom, and depression away. Other people use food as a punishment and refuse to eat due to emotional reasons such as stress. People with eating disorders also develop severe anxiety and self-consciousness, considering their body image.
Among eating disorder patients, stress can be caused from various social and environmental factors that may include peer and societal pressures to have the ‘perfect body type.’ — Greta Gleissner LCSW
A developing eating disorder may be observed based on people’s certain behaviors and habits.
A famous sign is dieting behavior, which includes fasting, calorie counting, and avoiding particular food which they are sensitive. On the other hand, others may be guilty of binge-eating, resulting in hoarding and consuming plenty of food.
Some may also have obsessive rituals in food preparation and eating, such as eating very slowly and cutting food into tiny bits. People have the habit of frequenting the bathroom shortly after meals to induce vomiting. They may also use laxatives, appetite suppressants, or diuretics to help with their bowel movement. They eat alone and avoid eating with others. Lastly, people with the disease are compelled to exercise excessively, sometimes affecting their social and work lives.
There are different levels and intensity of eating disorder treatment that depend on various factors such as how long you’ve been struggling with the disorder and how medically compromised you are. — Susan Albers Psy.D.
In the end, eating disorders can hinder a person from living normally. People with this disorder will push boundaries to achieve their aspired body image and weight, no matter how unhealthy the process can be. Even as they exhibit specific physical and behavioral symptoms signaling an underlying eating disorder, patients may not believe they have it. Other symptoms like psychological signs are harder to spot and would require deep and sincere interaction with the patient. The best way to save our loved ones from suffering from an eating disorder is early detection and treatment.