Make sure to keep a close eye on their behaviour and look out for the warning signs.
Studies have shown that in 2018, over 15% of Australian women alone will have suffered from some form of eating disorder at some point in their lives.
Often incorrectly seen as a choice or a lifestyle, rather than the serious illness that it is, eating disorders are not taken as seriously as they should be.
Even with these alarming statistics, social network personalities and health and beauty organisations worldwide are employing tactics that are aimed at “the perfect body” or “how a person is supposed to look” in order to market themselves and their products.
It could partly be because of this, that people who suffer from some eating disorders are driven to take drastic steps, not as a choice but involuntarily, in order to prevent themselves from gaining weight, even if it means being dangerously underweight and risking permanent physical health issues or even death.
How to Recognise an Eating Disorder
There are many types of eating disorders, all of which are dangerous to a person’s health while some can potentially lead to death if they are not treated in time.
These are some of the common symptoms and warning signs to look out for that are typical to a person with an eating disorder:
- Unnatural or sudden obsession in all aspects regarding food, diet and exercise.
- Religiously counting calories and obsessing over certain foods caloric values.
- Shying away from any social activity that involves food and eating.
- Unnatural behaviour before, during and after meals.
- Often saying how they would like to lose weight when they are actually underweight.
- Denying that they are underweight/overweight.
- Binge eating foods that they would not normally enjoy.
- Eating at irregular hours or avoiding eating around other people including family members and friends.
Of course, there are many more warning signs and symptoms that specifically go along with the different types of eating disorders. However, it is good to keep an eye on the patient and monitor their behaviour for some of these common signs, in order to prevent the potential disorder from worsening.
How to Help Someone Who Has an Eating Disorder
Keep an eye out for the warning signs
When you suspect that someone may have an eating disorder, make sure to keep a close eye on their behaviour and look out for any of the warning signs listed above and any other strange or irregular behaviour.
Make sure not to make it obvious or apparent that you suspect anything as this could cause them to try harder to hide their disorder or they could feel guilty and ashamed and their condition could worsen.
Talk to them about it
Once you have gathered enough evidence to make an accurate assessment, confront the patient in a caring and compassionate manner. Ask them questions and always listen to what they have to say without judgement or condescension.
It is important that they feel comfortable talking to you and opening up about their disorder.
Compliment them on their appearance
Considering that eating disorders are largely centred around physical appearance, be sure to compliment them on their appearance in a way that makes them feel that they are naturally beautiful without having to resort to drastic measures.
If possible, urge their family and friends to do the same.
Help them to acknowledge that their behaviour is not healthy
Without getting into all of the gory details about what their disorder could do to their physical wellbeing, educate them on the dangers and long-term/permanent effects that their disorder causes.
Make sure that they know that there are ways of overcoming eating disorders and that their physical appearance will, in fact, be a lot better once they manage to get their disorder under control.
Suggest a medical treatment
In some cases, to treat an eating disorder, the patient will need to be prescribed medical treatment in order to assist in holding back the urges brought on by the disorder or to combat the effects that the disorder has had on their body and mind.
It is important that they understand any and all side effects that the medical treatments may have before they agree to take it.
As with any type of mental health disorder, eating disorders do not have to be a permanent, lifelong burden.
With the proper guidance and support, eating disorders can be maintained and prevented altogether without the need to resort to drastic measures.