Eating Disorder Symptoms
Recognizing eating disorder symptoms early is key, but this isn’t always easy. Symptoms of eating disorders can be subtle. Because individual’s use eating disorder behaviors as a way to cope with painful issues, or release feelings of anxiety, hiding the eating disorder symptoms may become a matter of routine.
Often family and friends know that something is wrong, but it is difficult for them to express exactly what it is, or have the right terminology to ask a professional. The concern of those who care for a person who may have an eating disorder is reason enough to seek help, or at least professional guidance. Castlewood is here for both.
Eating Disorder Symptoms in Adolescents and Young Adults
Symptoms of eating disorders, even in the earliest presentation, can be of three types: physical, emotional, and psychological. Eating disorders affect both sexes, and throughout age groups, so it is important not to assume that a young man is immune to anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).
Some symptoms are common in all types of eating disorders, while others are more specific to anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder (BED). Each person is unique in their own specific constellation of eating disorder symptoms.
Physical Symptoms of Eating Disorders
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Fluctuations in weight
- Dry hair or skin
- Feeling cold
- Fainting or near-fainting
- Fatigue, from mild to extreme
- Development of fine body hair (this is called lanugo)
Emotional Eating Disorder Symptoms
- Continually worries about being “too fat” or “too thin”
- Changes in general attitude and performance at school or work
- Reluctant to ask for help, overly self-sufficient
- Self-disparaging and expresses feelings of worthlessness
- Frequently comparing personal appearance to others
- Overestimating body size
- Spending increased amounts of time alone
- Frequently talking about dieting
- Depressed mood
- Social anxiety or anxiety in situations involving food
Behavioral Eating Disorder Symptoms
- Frequent dieting or abnormal patterns of eating, such as bingeing or eating mostly at night
- Exercising excessively
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Wearing baggy clothing to hide weight gain or loss
- Talking about food constantly
- Skipping meals or appears to eat minimally in front of others
What to Do If Symptoms of Eating Disorders are Present
Ask for help. Express your concerns to your family physician, or contact Castlewood directly.
Many friends and family are hesitant to ask a loved one directly about the eating disorder symptoms that are noticed. They fear alienating someone they love, or mistakenly “accusing” them. Often not knowing what to say, or how to start, can prevent a crucial conversation from taking place.
Some simple and positive ways to express concerns include:
- Addressing how much the person is cared about, and not directly the food and weight
- Avoid commenting about their appearance
- Avoid using shame, blame, guilt, or power struggles about the eating behaviors
- Simple advice such as “You just need to eat” or “Why don’t you just stop?”
- Use “I” statements (which share feelings) instead of “you” statements (which sound accusing)
Although symptoms of eating disorders may be subtle, over time malnutrition and significant medical issues can develop. These require medical interventions that should not be delayed. This is also true if there are any concerns that self-harm behaviors or suicidality are present.
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible, and Castlewood’s professional clinicians have the compassionate expertise that supports the client and their loved ones through each part of this life-changing journey.