What is considered an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder can be characterized by either an insufficient or excessive food intake. There are many different types of eating disorders. The more well known ones are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by a person’s refusal to eat in fear of gaining weight. Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a person’s heavy consumption of food in a short period of time and then thereafter trying to get rid of it by purging, using laxatives, or excessive exercise. Lastly, Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by the regular intake of large amounts of food without exhibiting any control on food consumption.
Warning Signs of Anorexia:
- Dramatic weight loss – Rapid, drastic weight loss with no medical cause.
- Feeling fat, despite being underweight – You may feel overweight in general or just “too fat” in certain places such as the stomach, hips, or thighs.
- Fixation on body image – Obsessed with weight, body shape, or clothing size. Frequent weigh-ins and concern over tiny fluctuations in weight.
- Harshly critical of appearance – Spending a lot of time in front of the mirror checking for flaws. There’s always something to criticize. You’re never thin enough.
- Denial that you’re too thin – You may deny that your low body weight is a problem, while trying to conceal it (drinking a lot of water before being weighed, wearing baggy or oversized clothes).
Warning Signs of Bulimia:
- Engaging in binge eating and unable to voluntarily stop.
- Using the bathroom frequently after meals.
- Reacting to emotional stress by overeating.
- Having menstrual irregularities.
- Having swollen glands.
- Experiencing frequent fluctuations in weight.
- Unable to voluntarily stop eating.
- Obsessively being concerned about weight
- Attempting to adhere to diets, but generally failing.
- Feeling guilty or ashamed about eating.
- Feeling out of control.
- Having depressive moods.
Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder:
- Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
- Eating much more rapidly than normal.
- Eating until the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
- Often eating alone because of shame or embarrassment.
- Having feelings of depression, disgust, or guilt after eating.
- Having a history of marked weight fluctuations.
How to help a friend with an eating disorder
First of all you have to be aware that any of the above mentioned eating disorders can have fatal consequences on your friend’s mental and physical health. Understanding the seriousness of the situation, you should address the problem to your friend in a gentle and compassionate way. Let him/her know of your concern and offer an ear to listen if he/she in willing to talk about it. Bombarding your friend with all the negative effects of his/her behavior will only make the situation worse. Focus on being there for your friend. If he/she acknowledges the need for help, which is the first and crucial step in healing, offer to be there for him/her every step of the way , to offer encouragement and seek out help from a therapist.
How can therapy help?
When seeking help, a team approach to treatment is often best. It is wise to seek a counselor that will enable you to alter your perception of your body image. Another reason why it is important to seek help from a therapist is that a therapist will be able to get to the root of the problem, what is actually causing the eating disorder. A lot of times, it can be emotional distress, the avoidance of other problems or low self-esteem. On the other hand, a dietician can teach you about proper nutrition and healthy eating habits whereas a nutritionist can help you create a plan that will enable you to get back on track with your normal weight.