Eating Disorders

What is it?

Eating disorders are not just about food, weight, vanity, or willpower, but are serious and potentially life-threatening mental disorders. Most eating disorders occur when a person has distortions in thoughts and emotions relating to body image, leading to marked changes in eating or exercise behaviors that interfere with the person’s life.

Signs and Symptoms: 

Behavioral:

  • Dieting behaviors, such as fasting, counting calories, avoidance of food groups or types
  • Evidence of binge eating
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative use
  • Excessive, obsessive, or ritualistic exercise patterns
  • Changes in food preferences
  • Development of rigid patterns around food selection, preparation, and eating such as cutting food into small pieces, or eating very slowly
  • Avoidance of eating meals
  • Lying about amount or type of food consumed or evading questions about eating and weight
  • Behaviors focused on body shape and weight
  • Development of repetitive or obsessive behaviors relating to body shape and weight, such as pinching waist or wrists, repeated weighing, or excessive time spent looking in mirrors
  • Social withdrawal or avoidance of previously enjoyed activities

Physical:

  • Weight loss or weight fluctuations
  • Sensitivity to cold or feeling cold most the time, even in warm temperatures
  • Changes in menstruation
  • Swelling around cheeks or jaw, calluses on knuckles, or dental discoloration from vomiting
  • Fainting

Psychological:

  • Preoccupation with food, body shape, and weight
  • Extreme body dissatisfaction
  • Distorted body image, such as complaining of being, feeling, looking fat when actually having a healthy weight or being underweight
  • Sensitivity to comments or criticism about exercise, food, body shape, or weight
Support Strategies: 
  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen nonjudgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies
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