Eating Disorder Symptoms That Go Unnoticed
Most people think they know what an eating disorder looks like, but the truth is the majority of individuals with eating disorders live with their condition for years before others take notice. While there are some dramatic signs of these conditions, such as extreme weight loss or refusal to eat, these signs often come late in the course of the disorder.
In most cases, the earliest signs of eating disorders are subtle and vary from person to person. There is no fool proof way to tell if someone you care about is living with an eating disorder, but these easy-to-miss symptoms may be a sign.
Poor Body Image
While eating disorders range in their presentation and symptoms, one factor unites them all: negative or obsessive thoughts about body size. It also serves as one of the earliest warning signs. Individuals with eating disorders often speak negatively about themselves (“I’m so fat” or “I have no self-control”) and may misinterpret other’s comments.
Working out can be healthy, but overdoing it can be dangerous. Excessive exercise habits also often go hand-in-hand with eating disorders. While it can be hard to define “over exercising”, there are a couple signs a person may be taking it too far. If a person panics when they miss a day of exercise or works out despite being injured or sick, they are likely overdoing it.
Issues With Eating In Public
As eating disorders begin to manifest, individuals may feel self-conscious or anxious about eating in public due to embarrassment or guilt related to their disordered eating and body image issues. Problems with eating in public or around others is most characteristic of anorexia, but it can occur in all eating disorders, including binge eating disorder.
Fine Body Hair
One symptom of malnutrition over an extended period of time is the development of soft, downy body hair. The hair, known as lanugo, is a physical adaptation to severely low weight and loss of body fat prevalent in individuals with anorexia.
While some individuals with anorexia develop fine body hair, another symptom of eating disorders can be dry, blotchy skin related to dehydration. Most often this is related to purging behavior in bulimia, but it can also occur due to malnutrition from anorexia. Dehydration is also known to cause dry mouth, and sunken cheeks and eyes.
As a result of poor nutrition and lack of body fat, the body struggles to stay warm. It is common for individuals with eating disorders, particularly anorexia, to frequently complain about being cold or wearing heavy clothing even in mild weather. In the most extreme cases, individuals with eating disorders can develop hypothermia.
Swelling along the jawline is a common symptom associated with purging behaviors as a result of swollen salivary glands. While this is most common in bulimia, the swelling can occur anytime purging behaviors are present and become more pronounced the longer the behavior continues.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please call (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and see if treatment is the right path for you or your loved one.