The three most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating. Each disorder is characterized by a number of behaviors related to diet, nutrition and exercise.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by obsession with food and being thin and often leads to self-starvation and over exercising.
Signs & Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
|Refusing to eat and denying hunger||Excessive exercise|
|Distorted self-image||Fear of gaining weight|
|Thin appearance||Preoccupation with food|
|Social withdrawal||Feeling cold frequently|
|Dry skin||Irregular heart beat|
|Menstrual irregularities, loss of menstruation||Soft hair present on the body|
|Abdominal pain||Low blood pressure|
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by binging (consuming a large amount of food at once) and purging (vomiting). After a session of consuming a large amount of food, an individual with Bulimia nervosa feels they need to rid themselves of the extra calories through vomiting and exercise. It is common for individuals with Bulimia nervosa to be at a normal weight or slightly overweight.
Signs & Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa
|Eating until the point of discomfort||Binging on foods high in fat and sugar|
|Self-induced vomiting||Distorted body image|
|Heavy focus on body image and weight||Excessive exercise|
|Going to the rest room after eating or during meals||Abnormal bowel functioning|
|Dehydration||Damaged teeth and gums|
Binge eating disorder is characterized by consuming excessive amounts of food on a regular basis. This can occur without feelings of hunger and can continue long after feelings of discomfort. After a binge-eating episode, an individual may attempt to diet or regulate their diet, which can lead to the next binge-eating episode. Individuals with binge-eating disorder can be normal weight, overweight or obese.
Signs & Symptoms of Binge Eating
|Eating to the point of discomfort or pain||Consuming more food during a binge episode than a normal meal|
|Consuming food at a fast rate||Eating alone|
|Feelings of disgust and depression over eating habits||Feeling that eating habits are out of control|
What To Look For
Each eating disorder is characterized by different signs and symptoms that can help you identify if an eating disorder is present; however, there are some common behaviors that can help you identify if someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder.
Signs to look for:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Paying constant attention to food and/or weight
- Exercising constantly without a specific training goal
- Obsession with fat
- Distorted body image
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Over-use of laxatives or diet pills to lose weight
How to Help a Friend
Approaching a friend who you may think has an eating disorder is an uncomfortable and even scary situation. The important thing to remember is to make that person feel understood and cared for. It is very important to not make that person feel judged in any way.
Tips on how to approach/help a friend:
- Approach your friend gently and persistently. Expect the person to deny that they have a problem and become angry and resentful toward your intervention. Be persistent despite their hostility.
- Emphasize positive attributes about them. Focus on the positive.
- Focus on your concern for their health and happiness instead of specific behaviors.
- Don't make any comments about anyone's (especially the friend you are trying to help) weight, body size or weight loss.
- Don't contribute to conversations focused on food, body size, calories, etc.
- Be supportive. Show your friend they you believe they can recover.
- Show them how much you care and will not ignore their destructive behaviors.
- Don't give advice. You are trying to get them the help that they need, not to treat them. Giving advice can often lead them to become defensive and shut down.
- Encourage your friend to seek professional help.
- Offer to go with them to get the help they need. This can make them feel more comfortable and reassure you that they are getting the help that they need.
- Don't blame yourself if your friend is unwilling to acknowledge the problem or seek help. It may take many attempts from you before they agree to get help.