Worried about someone

Eating disorders can have serious consequences. Please find below a list of common behaviours that may suggest an individual is susceptible

  • Preoccupation with food, eating habits, weight.
  • Belief that thinness equals happiness.
  • Perception of being overweight despite others’ appraisal of low or normal weight and even in the face of verifiable weight loss. This indicates a distorted body image.
  • Experience that eating or weighing on a scale can determine one’s emotional state, leading to the use of food to control emotions.
  • Frequent use of a harmful or ineffective method of weight control – diet pills, fad diets, laxatives, diuretics, starvation, or vomiting.

There are lots of warning signs such as loss of weight or eating much less than they used to. Perhaps they are making excuses about eating somewhere else, or refusing to eat a certain type of food such as meat. Do they make a big fuss if there is dressing on a salad or butter on the vegetables? Do they insist on cooking their own food, or refusing to eat with the family? They may have complained about feeling fat before all of this started, and may have been on a diet or become obsessive about exercise.

Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Dramatic weight loss.
  • Preoccupation with food, weight and calories.
  • Refusal to eat certain foods leading to restrictions on whole food groups (e.g. carbohydrates, fats etc).
  • Frequent comments about feeling ‘fat’ despite being underweight.
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, portioning).
  • Excessive exercise.
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Consistent excuses to avoid meal times or situations involving food.

The usual signs of anorexia include weight loss, changed eating habits, excessive exercise and withdrawal from a normal social life. People with anorexia usually deny there is a problem. They say they feel fine and get angry if you try to press the point.

Warning Signs of Bulimia

  • Evidence of binges – disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or hiding food.
  • Evidence of purging behaviours – frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and smells of vomiting, presence of packaging for laxatives or diuretics.
  • An excessive, rigid exercise regime – despite weather, tiredness, illness or injury.
  • Unusual swelling of the cheek or jaw area caused by vomiting.
  • Stained teeth.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
  • Living to strict schedules to ensure there is always time for bingeing and purging.
  • In general, behaviours and attitudes showing that weight loss, dieting and food control are a major issue.

People with bulimia may disappear to the bathroom after meals and run the bathwater or play the radio loudly. Air freshener may be used to hide revealing smells. Food may disappear in large quantities, and a carer might find a stash of hidden food, or packets of laxatives. There will be awful mood swings. Bulimia is a hidden illness because the sufferer may not lose weight.

Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorders

  • Evidence of binges – disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or hiding food wrappers.
  • Tends to suffer from depression and will be above average body weight.
  • Someone may be on a diet but fail to lose weight

It is harder to identify someone with a binge eating problem. Due to feelings of shame, people don’t usually admit to it. Binge eating is not a lack of willpower; it is a condition that responds well to expert treatment.

Some of the signs of an eating disorder can be true of many normal adults; however, if you are concerned and think that something may be wrong, trust your intuition.