There are many types of disordered eating habits, but a diagnosable eating disorder affects the social and occupational functioning of the patient in profound, sometimes life-threatening ways. Eating disorders often begin with the desire to become more attractive, confident, healthy, or in control. An eating disorder involves a pattern of self-inflicted starvation or self-induced vomiting. The following behaviors are common among patients with eating disorders:
- The patient is overly critical of their own appearance
- They withdraw from typical social activity
- Patients will often examine themselves in a mirror
- Meals become highly ritualized – patients will often only eat one specific thing, or exclude whole macronutrients (protein, fat, or carbs)
- Eating meals alone or finding excuses to avoid family mealtimes is another common sign.
- They may become moody, anxious, or depressed. They will also likely have trouble sleeping, which can make mood problems worse.
The behaviors of a person with an eating disorder will often isolate them, which can make their condition worse. Isolation gives their negative, intrusive thoughts an echo chamber, which only adds to the problem. Seek help from an eating disorder treatment program.
Physical Signs of Eating Disorders
Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa might not have any outward physical signs at first, but both will eventually. The most important thing to understand is that if you see physical signs, you’re in a zone of immediate need for medical intervention at a mental health treatment and addiction center.
- Changes in body weight that aren’t explained by any other activity
- Complaints of coldness, particularly in the hands and feet. Patients might wear weather-inappropriate clothing, like sweaters in the summer, for instance:
- Hair loss
- Tooth damage
- Heart palpitations
- Dry, mottled skin
- Weakness and fatigue
These are not the only physical symptoms, but they are some of the most common. The primary reason eating disorders can become dangerous quickly when physical symptoms arise is because electrolyte imbalances from purging or simply not eating can cause heart problems. Binge eating disorder treatment is available.
I Think My Loved One Has an Eating Disorder
The most important thing is to approach them cautiously and lovingly. As with any intervention, you need to ensure they feel comfortable and protected. Here are some tips when you want to speak to a loved one about an eating disorder:
- Approach them calmly and alone – do not ever start a discussion like this in front of other people, no matter how well-meaning they might be.
- Don’t ask them right out if they are having trouble with disordered eating. Instead, ask them open-ended questions like “how are things going lately?” and “has anything been bothering you recently”?
- Do not judge, mock, or accuse them – this is a mental health condition, not a choice.
- Listen without interruption and provide unconditional love and support.
- Educate yourself on eating disorders – the more you know, the better equipped you will be to help your loved one.
- Encourage them to seek professional help – remind them that help is available and encourage them to make an appointment with a mental health specialist.
- Reassure them that they are not alone – remind them that you’re there to support them, and do your best to provide a safe, non-judgmental environment.
- Be patient – recovery from an eating disorder can be a long and difficult journey.
Finally, always remember that you are not responsible for their recovery. This is something only they can do. Be there for them, but don’t take on more than you can handle. Your consistent love and support will make all the difference for your loved one as they work to recover from an eating disorder.
Eating Disorder Treatment and Substance Use
Treatment for eating disorders should involve treatment for any co-occurring mental health concerns or addictions. This often takes the form of outpatient treatment at a rehab center that tackles the recovery from multiple angles:
- Mental health treatment in the form of one-on-one meetings, along with group therapy
- Nutrition and exercise instruction
- Medical intervention if necessary
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder in the Pacific Northwest, Crestview Recovery is here for you. With an array of highly trained, master’s-level therapists, doctors, nutritionists, and staff, we have created a comforting place to aid in your recovery. Our recovery programs work with adult men and women, and we partner with many different insurers.
We provide intensive inpatient, outpatient, and partial hospitalization for people with co-occurring eating disorders and addiction. If you want to see how we can help, please give us a call at 866.262.0531 to see how our remarkable staff and alumni network can help you or a loved one.
Since 2016, Dr. Merle Williamson, a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, has been the Medical Director at Crestview Recovery, bringing a rich background in addiction medicine from his time at Hazelden Treatment Center. He oversees outpatient drug and alcohol treatments, providing medical care, setting policies, detox protocols, and quality assurance measures. Before specializing in addiction medicine, he spent 25 years in anesthesiology, serving as Chair of Hospital Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and Chief of Anesthesia at Kaiser Permanente. This experience gives him a unique perspective on treating prescription drug addiction.