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HOW TO TELL IF YOUR LOVED ONE HAS AN EATING DISORDER

PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION |

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “Eating disorders are illnesses with a biological basis modified and influenced by emotional and cultural factors. The stigma associated with eating disorders has long kept individuals suffering in silence, inhibited funding for crucial research and created barriers to treatment. Because of insufficient information, the public and professionals fail to recognize the dangerous consequences of eating disorders. While eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses, there is help available and recovery is possible.”

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Awareness is the key word. If you don’t know the warning signs you could miss the chance to help someone in need. So please pay attention. Noticing any of these 5 warning signs may make a crucial difference in the health of a loved one.


1. The mouth is a window. You may be surprised to find out that dentists and dental hygienists are often the first people to notice eating disorder symptoms. Unexplained dental problems – ranging from decay to sensitivity to red or inflamed throat and gums can all be telltale signs of an eating disorder… and a person struggling with anorexia or bulimia.

2. Small signs, big warnings. Scratched or bleeding knuckles may be a clue that a person is sticking fingers down their throat to force vomiting. Bloodshot eyes, especially after coming out of a bathroom after dinner, are another sign of vomiting. Light bruising under eyes or on the cheeks is also linked to vomiting. Small signs like these are big red flags.

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3. Fainting. Passing out can be a sign of many things related to eating disorders: potassium deficiency, dehydration, low blood sugar, and circulation or blood pressure changes. People with anorexia or bulimia may faint for a number of reasons, all triggered by starvation, vomiting or over-exercising.

4. Food stashes. Keeping food stashed away in secret places can actually be a warning sign of several different eating disorders. Anorexics hide food they claim to have eaten, while a binge eater or compulsive eater may stash food away for secret binges behind closed doors.

5. Baggy clothing. This can also be a sign of multiple eating disorders. Compulsive eaters or binge eaters may wear baggy clothes so you don’t notice their fluctuating weight. Similarly, anorexics may don oversized clothes to avoid scrutiny about their thinness. There’s nothing wrong with wearing baggy clothes. But if you suspect someone is wearing baggy clothes to disguise their body shape, then there may be cause for concern.

Eating disorders are very serious and should never be ignored. Approaching someone you care about with your concerns is often a tricky thing to do (it could anger them and cause a nasty confrontation) but do it anyway because you just might be saving a life. For more information about eating disorders, or to get advice about how to let your loved one know you’re worried, visit SomethingFishy.org or the National Eating Disorders Association website.

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