Signs of an Eating Disorder

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by weight loss caused by inadequate caloric intake and/or excessive exercise. Many people suffering from anorexia believe they cannot be thin enough and continue to see themselves as "fat" even though they may be extremely malnourished. The following symptoms and behaviors are common in people suffering from anorexia:

1. Weight loss
2. Preoccupation with food, calories, dieting and body image
3. Refusal to eat certain foods
4. Wearing loose, bulky cloths to hide weight loss
5. Avoiding mealtimes or eating in front of others
6. Making comments about body image

Because people with anorexia become expert at hiding it, the disease may become severe before it comes to the attention of others. Because of this, getting appropriate treatment is often delayed. What we know about recovery from anorexia is the sooner in the progression of the illness people get the right type of treatment the more likely they are to fully recover.

Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by episodes of bingeing followed by purging, fasting, or exercising excessively to compensate for overeating. People suffering from bulimia are typically normal weight but as with people suffering from anorexia have intense fears of gaining weight and distorted body image. The following symptoms and behaviors are common in people suffering from bulimia:
1. Evidence of binge eating
2. Dieting without weight loss
3. Hoarding or hiding foods
4. Avoiding eating in front of others
5. Using the restroom after eating
6. Evidence of purging

Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by episodes of overeating and feelings of loss of control about eating. The following symptoms and behaviors are common in people suffering from binge eating disorder:
1. Evidence of binge eating
2. Attempts to hide binge eating behaviors
3. Guilt and shame associated with binge eating
4. Hoarding or hiding foods
5. Depression

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of eating disorders is the first step toward getting help and recovering. Getting the right type of treatment and having support from others are keys to recovery. Unfortunately, eating disorders have the highest mortality of all of  the psychological disorders as nearly 1 out of 10 people suffering from eating disorders do not survive their illness. Fortunately, eating disorders are treatable, and with the right type of treatment and support most can find relief from their eating disorders and get their lives back on track.

How to approach someone you are concerned may be suffering from and eating disorder

People suffering from eating disorders often use their eating disorder behaviors to manage feelings of depression and anxiety. In other words, they feel less depressed and anxious because of their eating disorders. They are often ambivalent about getting treatment because they fear without their eating disorders their symptoms of depression and anxiety will worsen. Because of this people suffering from eating disorders hide their behaviors and deny a problem when approached by others. They can become defensive and angry when concerns about their eating are brought to them. Don't let their response to your concerns deter you from making sure they get the right type of help they need. Here are some tips in approaching someone you are concerned may be suffering from an eating disorder:

1. Educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of eating disorders
2. Research different treatment options (see treatment options below)
3. Approach your loved one directly about your concerns
4. Provide your loved one written material about eating disorders, the health risks associatedd with them, and treatment options
4. Be persistent about your loved one getting help

Levels of Care

Outpatient Treatment

Typically outpatient treatment involves individual and family psychotherapy. In addition, many patients also receive nutrition counseling and all patients should be medically managed by their Primary Care Physician. The psychotherapist coordinates the patients treatment and insures all the providers communicate with one another about the patient's treatment. Outpatient care is appropriate for most patients if they are medically stable and are making progress in treatment. Progress in treatment should be measured by reduction and elimination of eating disorder behavior and improved insight about the psychological issues that might be driving eating disorder behaviors. The benefit of outpatient treatment is that patients are able to receive treatment with minimal interruption in their day-to-day lives. In other words they receive treatment while continuing work, school, and remaining with their families.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization program are typically 8-11 hours per day 5-7 days per week. Patients attend treatment during the day but return home in the evenings. This level of care is appropriate for those patients who need more consistent supervision throughout the day to prevent eating disorder behaviors. Patients at this level of care take a leave from work or school in order to attend treatment.

Inpatient Residential Treatment

At this level of care patients stay at the treatment facility 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This level of care is appropriate for those patients who need this level of supervision to prevent eating disorder behaviors or require daily medical monitoring.

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