How to Recognize an Eating Disorder

The first step in getting help—either for you or for someone you love—is to recognize the signs. The signs vary and are dependent on the type of eating disorder.

How to Recognize Anorexia
People with anorexia tend to be very good at hiding it, meaning that the disease may become severe before anyone notices symptoms. If left untreated, anorexia can lead to malnutrition and organ failure. However, treatment helps most people with anorexia get back to their normal weight and become healthy again. Signs of anorexia include the following:

  • Obsessing about calories.
  • Denying there is a problem.
  • Losing a dramatic amount of weight.
  • Wearing bulky clothes to hide weight loss.
  • Refusing to eat certain types of food such as foods high in sugar, carbs or fats.
  • Avoiding eating in front of others.

How to Recognize Bulimia

If left untreated, bulimia can lead to long-term health problems that include an abnormal heart rhythm, bleeding from the esophagus, and dental and kidney problems. However, bulimia can be treated successfully through a variety of methods. The following are just a few signs of bulimia:

  • Disappearance of large amounts of food in a short amount of time.
  • Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom after meals.
  • Refusal to eat in front of others.
  • Unhealthy body image.
  • Excessive use of gum, mouthwash, or mints.
  • Scarred knuckles from repeatedly inducing vomiting.

How to Recognize Binge Eating Disorder

According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, binge eating is just as prevalent in men as it is in women. Common signs of binge eating disorder (BED) include the following:

  • Evidence of binge eating, such as the disappearance of large amounts of food in a short amount of time.
  • Hoarding food or hiding large quantities of food in strange places.
  • Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others.
  • Constantly dieting, but rarely losing weight.

If you know anyone who frequently displays any of the above signs of an eating disorder, remember that recognizing the signs and symptoms is the first step toward getting help. With the right treatment and a good support group, it is highly possible to learn healthy eating habits and become confident in one’s own skin.