Understanding Eating Disorders

Apr 28, 2018 in Hot Topics

In  the United States, about 30 million people (all genders and ages) have an eating disorder. Some commonly known eating disorders include: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. An unfortunate stigma that comes with these can make it difficult for people to talk about. Pushing off something like this can make it extremely difficult for those who need it to seek help.

Genetics, environmental factors, and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder. It is difficult to know exactly what you should do if you start noticing behaviors that might be associated with an eating disorder. It is important to remember to be open and honest about what you are seeing, and do not try to be a therapist, but be supportive.

Signs of a Possible Eating Disorder (according to NEDA):

Emotional and behavioral

  • In general, behaviors and attitudes that indicate that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.)
  • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
  • Food rituals (e.g. eats only a particular food or food group [e.g. condiments], excessive chewing, doesn’t allow foods to touch)
  • Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
  • Any new practices with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • Frequent dieting
  • Extreme concern with body size and shape
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
  • Extreme mood swings

Physical 

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
  • Stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)
  • Menstrual irregularities — missing periods or only having a period while on hormonal contraceptives (this is not considered a “true” period)
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Abnormal laboratory findings (anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels, low potassium, low white and red blood cell counts)
  • Dizziness, especially upon standing
  • Fainting/syncope
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Sleep problems
  • Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints (a result of inducing vomiting)
  • Dental problems, such as enamel erosion, cavities, and tooth sensitivity
  • Dry skin and hair, and brittle nails
  • Swelling around area of salivary glands
  • Fine hair on body (lanugo)
  • Cavities, or discoloration of teeth, from vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Yellow skin (in context of eating large amounts of carrots)
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet or swelling of feet
  • Poor wound healing
  • Impaired immune functioning

 

A very important thing to remember is to be patient with whoever is going through the healing process, whether it is yourself or a loved one. Recovery can take a long time, and there are bound to be many ups and downs. Also, the person in recovery has to want it for themselves. You are never going to force someone to recover just because you want them to be better. Knowing your own limits and being respectful can make the process a lot easier.

 

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