People with eating disorders typically experience an excessive drive for thinness and/or may become obsessed with weight, food, calorie intake, exercise or physical appearance. They may pursue extreme weight loss or have a distorted body image, seeing themselves as overweight when in reality they are underweight. They may have an intense fear of becoming ‘fat’ or may experience significant anxiety or panic when needing to eat. They may feel they have eaten a lot of food when they have eaten very little. They may eat large amounts of food and then attempt to undo this by excessively exercising, restricting food intake, or purging. Alternatively, individuals may compulsively overeat and lose control around food.
Eating disorders typically first occur in adolescent girls and young women, evolving into lifelong struggles with weight and food, particularly when left untreated. Boys and men can also develop eating disorders, often going overlooked due to societal and gender stereotypes.
Eating Disorder Symptoms
- Excessive weight loss/failure to gain weight with growth/age
- Preoccupation with food/weight/body image
- Intense fear of becoming fat
- Excessive exercise in an attempt to lose weight
- Self-induced purging such as vomiting or laxative/diuretic abuse to lose weight or in response to binge eating
- Restricting food or calorie intake/often skipping meals
- Body image distortion; seeing self as ‘fat’ or overweight when they are thin/underweight
- Binge eating/inability to stop or control eating
- Loss of menstruation/failure to begin menstruating at an appropriate age
- Fainting episodes or seizures due to dehydration/low potassium levels/low blood pressure as a result of eating disorder behaviors
- Family or extended family history of eating disorders, anxiety, depression, or substance abuse
- History of physical/emotional abuse
- Childhood obesity
- Excessive family focus on appearance, weight, food choices
- Bullying/criticism about appearance or weight
- Involvement in activities emphasizing performance, appearance, or weight
- Perfectionism, anxiety/depression, need to please others, social rejection
- Family conflict/divorce
- Societal or social pressures to be thin
Eating disorder symptoms should to be taken seriously as they can result in significant emotional distress and medical problems. If left untreated, this may lead to longstanding problems, medical complications, or even death. People with eating disorders may be at greater risk for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, interpersonal struggles, self-harm, substance abuse, and suicide.
If you suspect that you or your child may have an eating disorder, please contact your physician and an eating disorder specialist. I offer specialized training and experience in consulting, diagnosing and treating adolescents, young adults and adults with eating disorders and their families, and welcome an opportunity to talk with you further.