The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) week is celebrated in the last week of February each year. NEDA’s purpose is to promote awareness of eating disorders and give hope to those in recovery and their families. Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and genders. They are frequently shown during one’s teen years or young adulthood, eating disorders may also develop during childhood or later in life. Eating disorders might start with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape. In more severe cases, eating disorders may cause people to have serious health consequences.

Warning Signs of Disordered Eating:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Concern about eating in public
  • Excuses to avoid mealtime
  • Refuse to eat certain foods
  • Deny feeling hungry
  • Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat”
  • Repeated weighing oneself
  • Patterns of binge eating and purging
  • Dressing in layers to hide weight loss or “stay warm”
  • Severely limiting and restricting themselves the amount and types of food consumed
  • Always express a need to “burn off” calories
  • Excessively exercising
  • Develop rituals around food
  • Cooking meals for others without eating them
  • Missing menstrual periods (for those who would typically menstruate)
  • Poor immune system function
  • Poor wound healing
  • Calluses across the tops of the finger joints (a sign of inducing vomiting)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Abnormal slower heart rate
  • Anemia
  • Low thyroid levels
  • Low hormone levels
  • Weakened muscles
  • Thinning hair
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feeling cold at all times
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Menstrual irregularities
Types of Eating Disorders:

Eating disorders are complex, they are a group of related conditions that involve extreme food and weight issues. However, each eating disorder has its unique symptoms and diagnostic criteria. The following are four commonly known eating disorders and their symptoms:

1.     Anorexia Nervosa

A condition where individuals would avoid food, severely restrict food, or eat very small amount of only certain foods. Individuals with anorexia nervosa would weigh themselves often and repeatedly. They may view themselves as overweight even when they are dangerously underweight.

People with restrictive subtype of anorexia nervosa would severely limit the amount and type of food consumed; while people who are in the binge-purge subtype of anorexia nervosa would display binge-eating and purging episodes, they may use laxatives or diuretics to get rid of the foods consumed.

2.     Bulimia Nervosa

A condition where individuals have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food, they would feel a lack of control over these episodes. Oftentimes, the binge-eating episodes are followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of diuretics and laxatives, excessive exercise, and fasting. Individuals with bulimia nervosa may be difficult to notice, as individuals tend to be slightly underweight, normal weight, or overly overweight.

3.     Binge-eating Disorder

A condition where individuals lose control of their eating and would eat unusually large amounts of food. The difference between bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder is regarding purging behaviors, excessive exercise, and fasting. Binge-eating disorder does not follow by such behaviors; individuals with this disorder tend to be overweight or obese.

4.     Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

A condition where individuals would restrict the amount and type of food consumed. Individuals with ARFID would not have a distorted body image or extreme fear of gaining weight like individuals with anorexia nervosa. ARFID is found to be more common in middle childhood; many children may go through phases of picky eating, but a child with ARFID would not eat enough calories to grow and develop accordingly.

It is important to take necessary steps to seek treatment early for eating disorders. Individuals who have eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide and other medical complications, as well as having other mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Treatment plans are tailored to individual’s needs, some examples are individual psychotherapy, medical care, nutritional counseling, and medications. If you or your loved ones may display some signs of eating disorders, do not hesitate to reach out to Capital EAP and we can assist you!

By: Jessica Lau – MHC, EAP Clinician