Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

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Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

Emelie Ingle, Staff

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Eating disorders are any range of emotional/psychological illnesses in which people experience severe abnormalities or disturbed eating habits and behaviors.

“Most people who have a dysfunctional relationship with eating and their bodies have a disorder that falls into one of the following categories: anorexia, binge eating, bulimia and other eating disorders,” according to the Futures Recovery Healthcare website.

It is common that symptoms and signs will overlap and cross over into more than one specific type of a disorder.

A common assumption from people is that you can tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them. Generally, people will assume that patients are going to have an extremely low body weight. But this is not necessarily true in most cases of people with eating disorders.

Major signs of someone with an eating disorder is stressing or obsessing about food choices. This can include talking a lot about the content of food, tracking intake, and for some people, cycling through pop culture diets.

“A lot of people notice a friend isolating themselves. Things that they used to have fun doing, they don’t do anymore,” says Kate Clemmer, from the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt.

Ms. Clemmer also mentioned that someone isolating themselves can also be related to negative mood symptoms like depression or anxiety.

People may also notice someone trying to compensate for food. This could be exercising right after a meal, or over-exercising like going above the normal and healthy exercise.

“In general, the person is struggling with feeling like there’s something wrong with their body and they have a ‘negative body image,’” Ms. Clemmer explained.

A disorder can be recognizable when it starts to take over all areas of life in the person’s daily activities. The eating disorder takes priority over things that are important to you such as family, friends, your job, hobbies, and more. They avoid things that would otherwise bring them joy.

The guidance counselors at CHS told us a little bit about what they notice in these students and how they deal with students who come to them with concerns of themselves or a friend who has an eating disorder.

“Depending on the severity, the symptoms we notice, and what the student’s going through, we contact home,” said Ms. Watkins.

Watkins explained the steps they take. After calling the parents, they also provide resources like referrals for counseling and treatment centers, and sometimes group therapy.

Many students have trouble with feeling comfortable enough with coming forward to their friends, family, and school counselors as well. But letting their counselors know first may allow them to bridge the gap of calling home and having that first initial conversation.

“What I notice is a lot of health issues. If students aren’t eating healthy then they’re getting sick more often and miss school…number of absences are increasing, more illness, and lack of ability to concentrate or focus in school,” said Watkins.

There are many symptoms and signs in different eating disorders, but some are more visible and obvious than others. Every eating disorder is different, although the symptoms do sometimes overlap. But there are ways to recognize someone who is struggling with a disorder and there are steps you can take to help them.