Parents, friends and carers are often the first to spot a warning sign with someone with an eating disorder however it can be difficult to identify whether this is a stage the person is going through or whether it has become something more serious.
With social media, a culture of thin = beautiful and daily pressures, it is not uncommon to hear that your family member is on a diet however we have identified some signs below which may be warning signs requiring further help:
- Avoidance at meal times, saying they have already eaten
- Increase in time spent talking about food
- A sudden interest in calories / nutrition
- Spending long periods in bedroom / looking in mirrors or avoids mirrors altogether
- Increased toilet trips after meals
- Buying laxatives / diet pills / diuretics
- Increased consumption of herbal teas ie green teas, chewing gum, water
- Increased exercise (may be done in secret)
- Telling you how much they have eaten – overestimating
- Denial anything is wrong
- Using smaller cutlery to eat / chopping and smearing food on the plate
- Taking longer to chew / eat meals
- Becoming obsessed with timings of food and how it is prepared
- Wearing baggier clothing
- Reporting feeling cold
- Researching weight loss sites
- Hiding food
- Consuming large amounts caffeine / diet drinks
- Wanting to feed and cook high calorie foods for others
- Reduced concentration
- Becoming socially withdrawn
- Avoiding social meal events
- Tearful at meal times / post meals
- Anxiety if having to eat food which has not been planned
- Becoming obsessed with bowels
Physical symptoms you may notice:
- Dizziness / feeling faint
- Pale complexion
- Difficulty keeping up with previous sporting activities or having to work harder
- Looking tired
- Periods stopping or becoming lighter
- Withdrawn and irritability
- Hair loss
- Poor circulation / cold hands and feet
- Dry / scaly skin
- Puffy face and poor teeth (where self induced vomiting is occurring)
- Red / swollen knuckles (where self induced vomiting is occurring)
Please Note | This list is not exhaustive and not everyone has all symptoms
What can you do to help?
It is often very difficult to discuss your worries with the person as they will often initially be in denial however it is suggested that the sooner they get help the better the recovery outcome.
Keeping boundaries and establishing some non negotiables (ie. meal times and expectations) can be helpful , support post meals (distraction may be useful as the person may be dealing with feelings of guilt or wanting to get rid of the calories consumed) a consistent approach and not blaming yourself is key.
Tips for what has been helpful to service users in the past can be found under ‘Service Users’
Looking after yourself as a parent / carer is vital as caring for someone with an eating disorder can be physically and mentally draining.
It can be helpful to have someone to share the load with, take time out and ensure you yourself are receiving adequate support.
This may be in the way of Carer’s Assessment.