Would you recognize if your friend or family member had an eating disorder?

I first showed signs of anorexia when I was a sophomore in high school. I began limiting food. I was a synchronized swimmer and wanted to lose weight to look better in a bathing suit. Rather than eating lunch, I’d study or talk to friends. I stayed late at school and skipped dinner. I exercised compulsively, sometimes working out all night. I didn’t want to sleep, because I wouldn’t be burning any calories. Keeping up the self-starvation became more difficult when I started going to Sweet 16 parties. I’d eat a salad or soup, a binge for me at that time. To compensate, I began purging and taking pills—laxatives, diet pills, water pills—25 or 30 a day. I lost weight. I always felt cold and often lightheaded. I fainted. I was very moody and temperamental. Toward the end, I developed fine baby hair on my tummy (a symptom of anorexia). The enamel on my teeth eroded from the stomach acid coming back up when I vomited. I needed many fillings.

Read more about Joan’s Story

Eating Disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses – not choices – and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder. Would you recognize if your friend or family member had an eating disorder? Parents, siblings and close friends play a significant role in guiding and supporting someone with an eating disorder. In many cases, individuals with eating disorders cannot recognize a need for help in themselves, and it takes a strong, caring individual to reach out. Most importantly, you need to know that there is hope. For those seeking recovery for a loved one, eating disorder treatment is available.

Some of the warning signs that may indicate an Eating disorder include:

  • Excessive weight loss – losing 15% or more of ideal body weight
  • Obsession with food calories and fat content
  • Dieting even when thin
  • Intense fear of gaining weight, even when underweight
  • Distorted self-image of excess weight even though not overweight.
  • preoccupation with size, body weight or shape
  • preoccupied with food, calories, nutrition, or cooking
  • Being secretive about food
  • Social isolation / avoid situations where food is served
  • Uses the bathroom frequently after meals.
  • Experiences frequent fluctuations in weight.
  • Loss of menstrual periods (secondary amenorrhea ) or delay in onset of period (menarche)
  • Excessive or increase in exercise
  • Feeling cold, especially in the hands and feet
  • Hair loss and/or growth of fine hair on the body
  • Over-use of laxatives or other weight loss products
  • Fainting or severe lightheadedness
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Heart palpitations

February 26 – March 3, 2012 is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Access an Eating Disorders Screening Tool, or get information about Eating Disorder Treatment.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.

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3 thoughts on “Would you recognize if your friend or family member had an eating disorder?

  1. This is a helpful and informative post. As someone living with an eating disorder, though, I would like to add that if you are trying to reach out to a friend, you SHOULDN’T assume they’re in denial, especially if they’re an adult. While most of us are in denial on some level (severity, mortality) and almost all of us publicly deny our disorders, many people with eating disorders are extremely well-educated on the subject and may in fact already be working at recovery or symptom management in our own ways. Be gracious, be tactful, and avoid condemning or condescending; we hear far too much of that as it is.

    • Thankyou for your insight Scarlett. Your advice to be gracious, tactful and not condemning or condescending are excellent suggestions for anyone who knows someone with an eating disorder.

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