Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, have the highest rate of fatality of any mental illness. These conditions are chronic and progressive in nature and can lead to emotional, mental, and physical distress for those who suffer from them. Treatment for these disorders must be comprehensive and compassionate, and usually requires long-term care and professional intervention in order to be successful. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), in the United States, there are 30 million people who portray signs of an eating disorder.
These individuals can be of any gender, age, race, or background- the disease does not discriminate. For many people, early detection of an eating disorder provides the best chance of effective treatment and long-term recovery. It’s important to recognize and treat the disease as early as possible in order to prevent the serious physical and mental consequences of an eating disorder. To this end, identifying the early signs of an eating disorder is a vital prevention tool for individuals, families, and professionals who work towards making sure that eating-disordered individuals get the care they need and deserve.
What are the Early Signs of an Eating Disorder?
Like most progressive illnesses, eating disorders gradually become worse over time. They often don’t start with extreme restriction or purging, but rather begin with subtle changes in thinking and behavior. The psychological causes of eating disorders are varied for each individual, but these diseases do have some common, underlying factors. These underlying causes can prompt an individual to display early signs of an eating disorder. Common risk factors for developing these disorders include:
- Family history or hereditary predisposition for an eating disorder
- History of trauma or unstable environment
- Psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses
- Lack of social or familial support
- Low-self esteem or poor image
- Social pressure (for example, in athletes whose daily routine or hobbies are dependent upon maintaining a certain physical condition)
Other Signs of Eating Disorders
No matter the causes of an eating disorder- which are different in each individual case- some of the early signs of an eating disorder can be very subtle and difficult to identify. However, there are some behavioral and thinking patterns that can be cause for concern and may indicate the beginning stages of an eating disorder. Certainly, identifying these can help people seek treatment for these conditions before they become full-blown. Or, before they create dangerous consequences for the individual. In short, some early signs of an eating disorder to look out for include:
- Poor self-image or self-esteem
- Obsession with physical appearance or bodyweight
- Crash dieting or participating in fad diets
- Counting calories and restricting food intake based on caloric count
- Rigid exercise routine
- Frequent use of scales or preoccupation with weight changes
- Rigid rules about food
- The desire to binge frequently, or periods of binging followed by feelings of guilt and distress
- Unrealistic weight goals or body image ideals
- Withdrawal from friends and family or secretive behavior
- Abuse of stimulants, cigarettes, laxatives, or diet pills to suppress appetite or lose weight
- Measuring or weighing food obsessively
- Extreme criticism of one’s weight, appearance, or body
Why It’s Important to Identify the Early Signs of an Eating Disorder
Like most illnesses, whether physical or mental, eating disorders are best treated with intervention and care as early as possible. The recovery prospects for individuals who suffer from these conditions are best if the illness is identified and treated as early as possible. During the progress of this disease, they become more entrenched and more dangerous. Identifying the early signs of an eating disorder makes treatment possible before the disorder becomes worse, and results in the best chance of a full physical and mental recovery that lasts for a long period of time. Eating disorders are particularly difficult to treat because as time progresses, they become a part of the sufferer’s daily routine, like second nature.
Effective treatment requires a change in routine, nutrition, thinking patterns, psychological health, physical habits, and oftentimes medical intervention. Consequently, in order for healthier habits and recovery to become second nature, these disorders must be quickly identified and treated by experienced professionals. Without treatment, signs of an eating disorder can become full-blown eating disorders, with tragic results. Some of the possible effects of an eating disorder include:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Cognitive problems
- Stroke or heart attack
- Tooth decay and esophageal damage
- Vitamin or nutrient deficiency
- Chronic malnourishment
To conclude, these serious health consequences are part of the reason why treatment for eating disorders is so vital. So, if you or someone you love are displaying early signs of an eating disorder and want to treat your condition before it gets worse, Willow Place for Women can help. We offer effective, comprehensive treatment for women who suffer from eating disorders in a safe and supportive environment. Call us today at 1-888-651-4212 for questions and admissions.