What are signs that somebody is suffering from an eating disorder?

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This week, the nation will be taking a close look at an ongoing issue within modern society as National Eating Disorder Awareness Week kicks off. The prevalence of the issue has become more and more apparent, with alarming statistics increasing every year.

“The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA) cites the following statistics on college student eating disorders,” said Sue Thorn, director of Marketing and Communications Screening for Mental Health:

*   15 percent of women ages 17 to 24 have eating disorders
*   40 percent of female college students have eating disorders
*   91 percent of female college students have attempted to control their weight through dieting

These statistics serve as a testament to the work that many like Thorn are trying to accomplish around the issue.

“The National Eating Disorder Awareness Week campaign started to bring awareness to the critical needs of people with eating disorders and their families,” said Thorn.

The campaign decides different awareness perspectives that are focused on throughout the week, this years being Intervention and Early Detection, two points that could help the statistics such as the ones stated.

“Despite their prevalence, many of those suffering with eating disorders do not seek help. Eating disorders are serious mental health disorders that require treatment. As with most illnesses, the earlier an eating disorder is detected and treated, the better chance exists for a successful recovery,” said Thorn.

In order to detect an eating disorder, one must fully understand the signs that coincide with such disorders.

“There are multiple types of eating disorders that have different signs and symptoms…If you don’t see these signs or symptoms, but have concerns about a friend or loved one, you should talk to them and encourage them to seek help,” said Thorn.

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Inadequate food intake leading to weight that is clearly too low
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Obsession with weight and persistent behavior to prevent weight gain
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Frequent episodes of consuming large amounts of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting
  • Feelings of shame or guilt regarding binge eating
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amounts of food followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image

First steps to handling a situation with an eating disorder can be difficult, Thorn said, but crucial to getting anyone with the symptoms the help they need in order to treat it successfully.

“It can be difficult to talk to someone if you think they may have an eating disorder. They may not want to hear what you have to say, but it’s important to speak up and to let them know that you care about them and you are concerned for them.”

“You want to encourage them to talk to a mental health professional or primary care doctor,” said Thorn.