Eating disorders can cause people to have unhealthy habits and lead to serious medical problems. People can often deny or do not realize they have an eating disorder. They may only seek treatment when their health is in serious condition.
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What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. They are serious emotional and physical problems that can have an extreme impact on a person’s health. Eating disorders can be life-threatening if not treated. People can often deny or do not realize they have an eating disorder. They may only seek treatment when their health is in serious condition. Contact your primary care provider if you have concerns about a possible eating disorder.
Eating disorder symptoms
Eating disorder symptoms vary depending on the type of eating disorder. Symptoms of anorexia or bulimia include:
- Dramatic weight loss in a short period
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide body or shape
- Overly worried about weight
- Overly focused on exercise
- Signs of seriously limiting food or starving oneself
- Using diet pills and laxatives
- Unusual routines or habits around eating food
- Fear of eating around others
- Low self-esteem
Screening and diagnosing eating disorders
Many tests can help determine if someone has an eating disorder. Doctors will evaluate someone’s behaviors and thoughts to determine if they are at risk. Further tests can include:
- Blood tests
- Bone density tests
- Electrolyte tests
- Kidney, liver, thyroid function tests
- Protein examinations
- Urine tests
Treating eating disorders
Eating disorders can be treated. Treatments help patients recognize their habits and behaviors are hurting their health. Doctors will aim to restore the patient’s body to a healthy weight, educate patients on healthy habits, and improve or fix possible damage from their disorder. Patients may be hospitalized if weight has dropped too much or continues to drop during treatment. Examples of treatments can include:
- Support groups
- Programs and schedules
Eating disorders may result because of several factors that include family history, as well as social, emotional and psychological challenges.
Other risk factors for developing an eating disorder include:
- Weight concerns
- Anxiety issues
- Life changes
People with an eating disorder may not recognize they have one. Behaviors and actions can often tell a lot about someone’s condition.
People with eating disorders will often:
- Not eat in public
- Have weight loss/gain issues
- Exercise frequently or too much
- Withdraw from social settings