Do I (or my friend) have an eating disorder?

Do you spend so much time in your waking hours thinking about weight, body image, and food that it interferes with your happiness, relationships with friends and family, or daily functioning?

Common Warning Signs Associated with Eating Disorders

Detecting an eating disorder can be a layered and sensitive topic. A big indicator might be a noticeable change in a person’s attitudes towards food and their body. While there are more specific signs depending on diagnosis, it’s important to note that not everyone fits neatly into these categories. All eating concerns deserve immediate attention.

EMOTIONAL/BEHAVIORAL

  • Weight loss, dieting, and control of food are primary concerns
  • Food rituals
  • Social withdrawal
  • Frequent dieting, body checking
  • Extreme mood swings

PHYSICAL

  • Noticeable weight fluctuations
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Difficulty concentrating, sleeping
  • Issues with dental, skin, hair, and nail health

How to talk to someone who might have an eating disorder

  • Gather the facts. Realize and accept that no action may be taken after the first conversation.
  • Remain calm and express your concern using “I” statements – shame is a part of any eating disorder or addiction. It’s important not to blame or make assumptions about what someone else is going through.
  • Listen with empathy and care
  • Suggest getting help. Resources like  ANAD’s helpline/website are available to help connect people to an eating disorders professional

How to help if someone doesn’t want help

  • Find a middle ground between forcing the issue and ignoring it.
  • Ask if they want help making the first call or appointment. They may just need support making that first call.
  • Sometimes it takes several tries before a person identifies the right clinician to help with their eating disorder. Remember that though eating disorders share commonalities, everyone is unique.
  • Even though these conversations are difficult, often people just need a little support and compassion. Not talking about it only encourages feelings of being isolated, ignored, and unimportant.  The best thing you can do is to listen and to let the person know you care about them, are concerned for them, and want to help.

When speaking with someone about eating disorders, you may be met with ambivalence, denial or reasons why the person doesn’t feel they need or want help. Try not to be discouraged, because simply having the conversation can open the door to more communication. For more tips and resources, on this topic, download the Support at Every Stage Guide.

Get Help

We invite you to consider contacting our Helpline or Referrals service for help.

This short screening tool — appropriate for ages 13 and up — can help determine if it’s time to seek professional help.

Eating Disorder Screening Tool

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