Eating disorders can affect both men and women. While any age group can suffer from a potentially life threatening eating disorder, the most impacted age range is that of teens and young adults.
While the cause of an eating disorder can vary from person to person, many healthcare professionals agree that it has to largely with poor self body image and a need for control over one's life and choices.
Eating disorder sufferers often attempt to hide their behaviors to avoid worrying family members or friends and ultimately, delay getting the help they need. However, loved ones can take action. They do not typically impact other eating disorders such as overeating or binge eating disorder, although a few of them may be seen in individuals with those conditions. The following signs are most common among individuals suffering from an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia and the steps can be taken by loved ones to get them help.
The signs and symptoms surrounding eating disorders can be complex, making them difficult to notice. The most significant sign of a serious problem is rapid weight loss and changes in appearance. Eating disorder sufferers often experience sallow skin, hair thinning or loss and appear underweight. However, some individuals may not be at an excessively low weight. For example, many bulimics may be at a healthy or even higher than average weight, making it critical to not go by appearances alone.
Certain behavioral patterns such as self isolation and withdrawal from once enjoyable activities such as sports may be more significant indicators of an eating disorder. Many sufferers also experience depression, shame and guilt for their condition. They may attempt to avoid family meals or social outings where food is present altogether and insist on staying home. In addition to these signs, many people living with an eating disorder may lie about having special dietary needs such as requiring a gluten free diet or having a made up food allergy. These are common tactics used to avoid eating food or limit one's consumption of unhealthy meals.
If a family member notices any of these signs, they should immediately contact local treatment centers for help. In most cases, family members may setup a treatment start date for their loved one and then propose an ultimatum should they refuse treatment. This approach is often used to convince adults with an eating disorder to get help since they cannot be forced into treatment if they refuse to participate. Ultimatums may include ending financial assistance, terminating a relationship or even making new housing arrangements. While these options may seem harsh, they often achieve the goal of getting the affected loved one into treatment immediately.
Eating disorders are serious and life threatening of not treated early on. They can lead to a variety of different health complications and even death in some cases. Getting help for someone living with an eating disorder is critical for their well-being.