Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder
Some of the behaviors a parent might be observing as a loved one develops an eating disorder. Some are related to food, and some are not. Some are present before an eating disorder comes into the picture, and some increase in intensity as the illness progresses.
♦ Avoiding a widening range of foods
♦ Avoiding situations where communal eating is expected
♦ New interest in "healthy," "low-fat," "low-carb" or "vegetarian" diets
♦ Inflexibility about what or when or how much to eat
♦ Unnatural focus on what others are eating
♦ Need to know calorie content of all foods
♦ Never available for family meals
♦ New interest in cooking and recipes but avoiding eating the food
♦ Foods, especially carbohydrates, disappearing quickly from the house (secret bingeing)
♦ Secretive or ritualistic eating
♦ Avoiding food until certain hours
♦ Anger at others if pressed to eat something
♦ Fear of over-eating, or gaining weight from a particular meal or type of food
♦ Exercising intensely but without pleasure
♦ Needing to exercise to compensate for eating
♦ Failure to gain weight or height according to growth curve
♦ Weight loss at any time during childhood or adolescence
♦ A conviction that one is too large
♦ Unnatural focus on the flaws of a particular body part or aspect of the body
♦ Repetitive requests for reassurance about appearance
♦ Social withdrawal
♦ Reports others are newly judgmental or "not connecting"
♦ Inability to describe emotions
If a loved one shows only a few of the symptoms of an eating disorder, or denies that anything is wrong, this is not reason to put the issue aside. Denying and concealing symptoms are a common symptom of brain changes associated with eating disorders and resulting malnutrition, and many patients are unable to accurately report their thoughts or feelings. Early detection and assertive treatment are the best way to prevent chronic illness and death.
See our Diagnosis
page for more information.