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Published on February 24, 2020

Eating Disorders: Signs, Symptoms and When to Seek Help

Eating disorders impact a person’s emotional and physical health – but if you or someone you know are struggling with disordered eating, there is help. In this week’s 2 Your Well-Being discussion, Jeannie Sykes, PhD, RD, LDN, CEDRD, shares information about eating disorders, including their impact on physical and behavioral health as well as signs one should seek help.

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are all about food, and at the same time, they’re not about food at all. When someone is struggling with an eating disorder, they may begin to show certain behaviors in relation to how they interact with food. But it’s not the food that causes the behaviors – often, the cause is what’s called “emotional dysregulation.”

Many people with eating disorders struggle with feeling that they’re not good enough, that they’re not smart enough, that they’re not a good enough athlete or student. When someone has an eating disorder, they use food as a tool to cope with these difficult emotions.

What Kinds of Eating Disorders Are There?

Eating disorders can take many different forms. A few of the most common include:

  • Anorexia nervosa, in which food intake is very limited due to restrictive eating.
  • Bulimia nervosa, in which food is eaten but then is purged.

There are other forms of eating disorders, including binge eating. Additionally, symptoms that a person experiences can change over time, morphing into different forms of eating disorders.

What Are the Signs of Eating Disorders?

Symptoms can vary between different types of eating disorders, and they may be subtle in the beginning. A few symptoms may include:

  • Cognitive changes. Not getting enough nutrition is common in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, and the lack of nutrition can lead to short term memory loss, trouble focusing and increased fatigue.
  • Changes in eating patterns. Pushing food around on a plate rather than eating it or simply not consuming much food at all may be a sign of an eating disorder.
  • Consistently needing to use the restroom immediately after eating.
  • Weight loss. However, someone with an eating disorder may have fluctuations in weight, so they may experience weight loss as well as weight gain. 

If I Am Struggling With an Eating Disorder or Someone I Know Is, What Should I Do?

There are many types of health care providers that can help support patients who are struggling with disordered eating. Primary care providers, therapists or counselors and dietitians can help explain symptoms as well as provide support and treatment to patients on their journey towards wellness.

About the Author

Jeannie SykesJeannie Sykes, PhD, RD, LDN, CEDRD, is a registered dietitian at Cone Health Family Medicine Center and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. 

Eating Disorders: Signs, Symptoms and When to Seek Help

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