How to recognise the signs of an eating disorder
Mental health conditions have always proven difficult to identify in comparison to physical issues. The lack of visibility means that anyone of us can suffer from a mental health issue while our closest friends and family can be totally oblivious.
In many cases, psychological conditions including eating disorders can prove irrevocably damaging, even fatal. So it’s important to understand the signs and know that there is a network of support to help.
Conditions such as the following examples of severe eating disorders:
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
- And Binge Eating Disorder
EDNOS – Eating conditions can manifest in other ways
Far from the only three, the previously mentioned conditions are just some of how eating disorders can manifest. Sufferers can also exhibit some symptoms of Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating but otherwise not come under the full diagnoses.
Those that suffer from partial symptoms have what is referred to as an EDNOS: an ‘Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified’. Conditions such as Night Eating, where individuals consume the majority of their calories at night. Or particular rituals of how sufferers eat also come under the purview of an EDNOS.
The risks of an Eating Disorder
Suffering from an Eating Disorder coincides with psychological conditions such as low self-esteem commonly. Understanding what signs indicate a potential eating disorder is paramount in knowing when to get help.
Having feelings of chronically low mood towards your body image, a low level of self-confidence along with feelings of anxiety or lethargy can be indicators of an underlying eating disorder.
Over time, eating disorders can have severe and irreversible effects on the body including Light-headedness and Dizziness, Irregular Heartbeat and Problems with digestion. Long term, the body starts to break down due to a lack of nutrients to sustain it. With conditions such as:
- Tooth Erosion and Decay
- Severe loss of bone density
- Weakened auto-immune system
- Damage to vital organs
- Prolonged Heart and kidney damage
Knowing the signs and symptoms of an Eating Disorder
Knowing what signs and symptoms are synonymous with conditions such as Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating and EDNOS are critical in knowing when to get support.
Anorexia Nervosa –
- Light-headedness and Fainting
- Refusal to eat both in front of people and alone
- Isolation from Social and Family relationships
- Extremely thin physical appearance
- Difficulty showing emotion and empathy for other emotions
- Body Dysmorphia (Distorted perception of the body)
Bulimia Nervosa –
Bulimia involves periods of overeating followed by extreme purging methods such as the use of laxatives, vomiting and high exercise. Signs and symptoms include the following:
- Eating high volumes of food, often until feeling sick
- Use of purging methods such as Laxatives or self-induced vomiting
- Body Dysmorphia (Distorted body image)
- Tooth and Gum erosion due to stomach acid from vomiting
- Constant eating and dieting cycles
- Lacerations and wounds to throat, mouth and gums
Binge Eating –
Bouts of dieting and overeating can also be factors of a larger condition of binge eating. Sufferers often eat even when they’re not experiencing hunger, sometimes using it as a means of dealing with underlying anxiety, stress or depression. Symptoms include:
- Eating beyond the point of satisfaction, resulting in discomfort and feeling sick.
- Eating high volumes of food at specific times of the day
- Feeling as though their eating is out of their control
- Extreme feelings of guilt, shame and discomfort when discussing food and their eating habits.
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) –
Those suffering from a mixture of any of these conditions among others can be defined as an EDNOS. Conditions of an EDNOS can include:
- Feeling sick or inducing purging through vomiting even when the amount of food doesn’t fall under the definition of ‘Binging’.
- Maintaining a strict calorie count despite having no need to.
- Suffering from ‘Night Eating Disorder’ (eating a disproportionate amount of calories at night)
- Spitting out or disposing of food rather than eating it.
The impact of cultural and social influences on individuals can also result in mental health issues which could lead to an eating disorder.
Eating Disorders – Risk Factors
- Events in our lives can cause immense stress, and sufferers may use eating as a means of managing their emotions.
- Eating disorders are disproportionately impacting upon young people; with men and women in their 20s suffering from some form of eating condition.
- A wider family history of mental health problems can also be a predicting factor for an eating disorder.
- Longer spanning psychological conditions can lead to eventual eating disorders. Anxiety, Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder all have the potential to lead to eating conditions.
- Dieting opens up the possibility of fostering dysfunctional eating habits over time. This can lead to an obsessive attitude towards eating.
Anyone exhibiting these kinds of conditions may be at significant risk of having an eating disorder. Seeking out professional help is the greatest way to address these habits and conditions.
Our Approach towards Eating Disorders
We swear by an expert, holistic approach towards treatment for serious conditions such as Eating Disorders. Our counsellors and therapists offer a wide variety of services in order to provide an effective plan. We provide access to services such as nutrition education, psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Psychological services can help educate and empower those suffering from eating disorders to manage their condition and work to resolve any underlying mental health issues.
Get to know your food – Nutritional Education
Our team offers Nutritional counselling for our patients, allowing both the patient and counsellor to create a straightforward set of goals and plan of action for the short and long-term. Conditions such as Anorexia may require weight restoration before undergoing longer-term therapy. We offer a great deal of skill and knowledge to provide a means of support in contrast to traditional ideas of hospitalisation.
Mental health conditions can be an underlying cause of eating disorders. Prescriptions for Anti-Depressants or anti-anxiety medication can help with the process of managing an eating condition. Certain individuals may benefit from a medical prescription depending on their circumstances. We definitely advise consulting with a GP or Counsellor before taking medication.
Emotional Support Groups
When diagnosed with an eating condition, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone in dealing with it. But knowing that our services also include access to emotional support groups can help you feel less alone. Our group sessions allow you to be among like-minded people, giving you the platform to express yourself in a friendly, non-judgemental environment.
If you or someone you knows suffers from an eating disorder, know that you are not alone. Speak to an online counsellor today for a consultation, and take control of your life.