5 Eating Disorder Warning Signs

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If you or someone you care about is struggling with an eating disorder, remember that you’re not alone. These disorders affect millions of Americans, and their consequences can be far-reaching and strongly impact loved ones and families. Fortunately, effective treatment is available for combatting this severe condition. The first step is learning to identify eating disorder warning signs. 

If you or a loved one is suffering, don’t wait another day to learn about getting recovery support. Sanford Behavioral Health offers an eating disorder program that suits our patients’ needs. The caring team at Sanford Behavioral Health is standing by at 616.202.3326 or via online message to answer your questions. We’re eager to tell you more about the eating disorder warning signs and our eating disorder treatments, so please reach out for a consultation.

What Are Eating Disorders and the Symptoms of Eating Disorders? 

Eating disorders take several major forms and may express themselves differently from individual to individual. In general, the physical behaviors of disordered eating arise from psychological unwellness. Regarding gravity and death rates, eating disorders’ impact ranks close to opioid addiction in the U.S.

The underlying mental component of eating disorders often starts with obsessive thoughts about body shape, weight, or food. The factors that trigger an eating disorder to develop are complex. Common contributors include: 

  • Cultural and social pressures – U.S. pop culture and media often endorse unrealistic and destructive beauty standards. These can trigger low self-esteem and even self-hatred among those who encounter them regularly. This raises the risk of eating disorders. Peer pressure or judgment from one’s immediate circle can also strongly contribute.
  • Dieting – For many, dieting is a slippery slope. The sense of control and loss of control often wrapped up in this practice can quickly spiral into disordered eating. 
  • Gender – Female-identifying, transgender, and nonbinary people tend to experience the most elevated risk for eating disorders in the U.S. 
  • Age – Teens and young adults are at the most significant risk for eating disorders, although they also affect people of all ages.
  • Stress and personal change – Times of transition or high stress due to jobs, toxic relationships, etc., raise the risk of developing an eating disorder. In these cases, disordered eating often arises from feeling out of control in other areas. 

What Are Five Anorexia Warning Signs?

One of the most well-known eating disorders is anorexia nervosa or anorexia. This disorder is characterized by an obsession with weight and food, unwarranted fear of being overweight, and a distorted body image. Those with anorexia thus attempt to maintain very low body weight through excessive exercise or starvation. 

Five warning signs of anorexia are:

  1. Being unwilling to eat even when very hungry 
  2. A deep-seated fear of weight gain or belief that one is fat despite actually having a very low body weight 
  3. Thinning, dry, or brittle hair and a dry or yellowish cast to the skin
  4. Mood symptoms like irritability, depression, or brain fog
  5. Frequently feeling cold or needing to wear many layers of clothing 

What Are Five Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa? 

Bulimia nervosa is another all-too-common eating disorder in the U.S. A fixation on body image, and food consumption also characterizes it. Unlike anorexia, bulimia features binging and purging as its defining behavior rather than starvation or extreme exercise alone. Those suffering from bulimia alternate between eating large quantities of food and then either “purging” or engaging in excessive exercise or fasting. Purging can occur through self-induced vomiting or excessive use of laxatives or diuretics. Like anorexia, bulimia can be life-threatening if left untreated. 

Five warning signs of bulimia are: 

  1. Tooth decay or other dental damage caused by stomach acid during frequent vomiting
  2. Russell’s sign, or knuckle calluses caused by scraping the back of the hand against the teeth when inducing vomiting manually
  3. Frequent complaints about physical appearance, depression, anxiety, or other mood symptoms
  4. Secretive behavior surrounding food, such as hiding food for later binges or being very uncomfortable eating with others
  5. Puffy cheeks from unhealed lesions in the mouth caused by vomiting, or other bloating due to dehydration from purging

Get Help Identifying the Physical Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder and Beginning Treatment at Sanford Behavioral Health

If you or a loved one is struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or another eating disorder, such as binge-eating disorder or avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, seek help right away. The seriousness of these conditions cannot be overstated, but with professional intervention, the odds of recovery are high. 

We can help you better understand the eating disorder warning signs and why treatment might be the next step. Contact Sanford Behavioral Health at 616.202.3326 or send us a message online to begin the conversation.

addiction, eating disorders, mental health treatment

Sanford Behavioral Health is an addiction, eating disorder, and mental health treatment facility serving Greater Grand Rapids, Michigan, and beyond. Our mission is to promote mental health, resilience, and well-being. Our goal is to provide practical and accessible substance use disorder, eating disorder, and mental health treatment to our patients. Sanford is led by a multi-disciplinary team offering integrative residential, outpatient and telehealth programs.