For mental illnesses such as eating disorders, there seems to be a misconception that someone must reach an invisible quota of suffering before they’re able to seek help; that those who are only mildly suffering are not ‘worthy’ of care and support.
But mental illnesses can be just as life-threatening as physical ailments – if not more. Eating disorders have one of the highest rates of mortality, which means early intervention is literally the difference between life and death.
The longer someone is left to suffer, the more reinforced their disordered behaviors become – ultimately making them much more difficult to break away from. For physical ailments, early detection is prioritized, and the same needs to be done for their psychological counterparts. Eating disorders left to develop can quickly lead to long-term, irreversible consequences and create complications like diabetes or organ failure.
We need to remove this concept that someone must reach ‘rock bottom’ before seeking help, which is why we’re sharing some early warning signs you might not be aware of. If you have any concerns about a loved one or have noticed food or exercise-related anxieties in yourself, it’s time to do something.
Early signs of eating disorders
Equipped with the ability to identify early warning signs, we can all do more to support those around us who may be suffering.
- Bad breath
- Damaged enamel
- Dry skin or hair
- Brittle fingernails
- Using the bathroom straight after a meal
- Skipping meals
- Excessive calorie counting
- A change in eating habits
- Excessive food consumption or hoarding
- Strict, obsessive workout sessions
- Obsessive body checking
- Avoiding concerns about their eating habits
While these can be early signs of an eating disorder, none of them is a guaranteed symptom. However, they are cause for concern. These signs could quickly get worse and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Getting help or treatment
Eating disorders are commonly linked to other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and each condition needs to be supported and treated for a successful recovery.
Treatment for eating disorders, therefore, addresses disordered eating patterns, as well as the mental and emotional aspects of the condition. Help can be found via your doctor or through specialist treatment centers such as Eden Treatment.
Specialists get to know each individual patient and to understand the roots of the condition and their experiences. Then, personalized plans that combine counseling, meal support, and nutrition education will be created. Group therapies also give people the chance to meet and communicate with other people and share their own stories of recovery. Additional cognitive-based therapies, such as plating up meals, might also be included, and excessive exercise will be monitored.
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible. The road may have twists and turns, but with early detection and the right support network, many sufferers can go on to live a happy life with a healthy relationship to food, exercise, and diet. If you feel like someone you know may be suffering in silence – or might not realize it themselves – it’s certainly the time to approach the conversation with them before it’s too late.