Signs You May Be Struggling with an Eating Disorder
Updated: Mar 8
Are you worried that you or someone you love may be showing symptoms of an eating disorder? These common signs are important to look out for so you know when to seek help for yourself or a loved one.
by Danielle Gaio, therapist intern at Peaceful Minds Psychotherapy
Eating disorders don't discriminate, and can look different for every individual. There are, however, common signs and symptoms that can indicate when someone is struggling. It is very important that you talk to your medical professional about this as eating disorders can cause significant mental and physical problems.
Concern About Body Size
If you or someone you know is constantly mentioning their desire to have a different body shape or number on the scale, this could be problematic. Although this is not a single sign that one has an eating disorder, it is important to monitor any significant weight loss or the need to be on a diet.
Exercise is a typical part of a healthy lifestyle and is beneficial to our mental health. For someone with an eating disorder, abnormal exercise habits can form in an effort to gain control. It is common for individuals to increase the amount of exercise they do and feel guilty if they are unable to work out. It is important to note when a person is exercising, how often, and if there are any comments on exercising in order to deserve food.
Control Over Food
The ability to have full control over meal preparation and what they eat is important to
someone with an eating disorder. Making meals that are “safer” is also crucial as well as being prepared ahead of time for what they will order at a restaurant. If the restaurant does not have what they were going to order, the person may become visibly upset. This sense of control is a foundational component of what drives the eating disorder.
Behaviours During or After Meals
New or abnormal behaviours while eating or afterwards can indicate disordered habits are forming. If someone is getting rid of the food they've consumed through purging , this is a symptom of the eating disorder bulimia nervosa. They may go to the bathroom during or immediately after eating to vomit. Another behaviour that may occur during meals is cutting the food into very small pieces, eating in a certain order or taking a very long time to eat. In addition, they may pick at their food in an attempt to look like they have eaten.
It is common that people with eating disorders also experience changes in mood stability, including developing anxiety and depression. If someone appears more depressed, anxious, tired, or irritable than normal, it may be an indication that they are struggling with the effects of an eating disorder. It is crucial to note that if you suspect any of the above signs in yourself or someone you know, that the individual receive immediate care. Therapeutic and lifestyle interventions can change the course of the development of a disorder.
If you are ever unsure about someone's behaviours or your own thoughts surrounding food, it would be beneficial to talk to someone or seek medical care. Eating disorders are serious condition, and seeking early intervention could save a life.