Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder

Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder

By Dr. Teri McCann, PhD, CEDS

Circumstances that precede the development of an eating disorder can often be considered warning signs. While the two are related, it’s important to distinguish the differences. Some conditions may create an environment of heightened risk; however, knowing what signs to be aware of may help you determine if your loved one is in need of help.

It’s important to mention that there is a great deal of evidence to show that some people have a genetic predisposition to developing eating disorder. Some personality types, such as those with perfectionism or those diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may be predisposed to rely on disordered eating as a coping mechanism.

The National Eating Disorders Association lists several warning signs, including:

  • Changes in personality. Mood swings, irritability, depression or even showing a lack of emotion can be a sign of something more serious. For example, isolating oneself may be a way of avoiding social eating, and sticking to a strict work-out regimen, such as exercising even when sick or injured can indicate dependence.
  • Changes in their relationship to food. This may seem obvious, but pay attention to drastic changes in eating patterns, such as eliminating entire food groups, adhering to strict fad diets, eating in secret or disappearing after meals.

Eating disorders serve as a protector from the unbearable emotions caused by experiencing complex trauma, often called attachment trauma. In my practice, I’ve often seen clients show relief and gratitude once you acknowledge that malnutrition caused by their relationship with food was physically preventing them from addressing these emotions, and therefore was serving as a protector. The numbing qualities of an eating disorder disguise the absence of pain as comfort.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness. However, recovery is possible, and early detection and intervention can help people to reclaim their joy and live life to the fullest.

If you have noticed any of these signs or feel concern based on the environment for a loved one, reach out to one of the experts at Fairhaven Treatment Center.

Dr. Teri McCann, PhD, CEDS is the Founder and Executive Clinical Director of Fairhaven Treatment Center near Memphis, TN. Dr. McCann has over 30 years of experience in working with women and adolescents with symptoms of eating disorders of all kinds. Dr. McCann specializes in the treatment of eating disorders that are related to trauma and attachment disorder.

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