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Are You at Risk of Developing an Eating Disorder? Red Flags for You or Your Loved One.

Woman standing in front of the mirrorThe pressure to be thin is felt by nearly all women at some point in their lives, whether it comes during their adolescence, the pressure-packed college years, or in the workplace. Data shared by DoSomething.org sheds light on the frightening scope of women’s negative body issues. According to studies, about 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape, 95 percent of those living with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25, and 58 percent of college-aged young women feel pressure to be a specific weight.

While many women agonize over the number on the scale, a significant percentage take effort to achieve an unrealistic low weight to a dangerous level. Reports indicate that more than 33 percent of those who admit to “normal dieting” will merge into pathological dieting, while approximately 25 percent will at some point suffer from a partial, or full eating disorder. Perhaps the most devastating fact of all is that only ten percent of people suffering from an eating disorder will seek professional treatment.

If the pressure to be thin is always present for women from their adolescence, through college, and into adulthood, at what point do women reaching the tipping point of dieting and weight control crossover to obsession and dangerous-calorie restriction? If you or a loved one are allowing the pressure to be skinny to control your food consumption or exercise behaviors to an unhealthy level, familiarize yourself with the following red flags that may indicate a compulsory eating disorder could be developing.

Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

What follows are possible signs that you or a loved one are at risk of an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder in which a person is obsessed with weight, body shape, and food intake to the point of self-imposed starvation.

Physical Signs

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of emotion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Brittle nails
  • Thinning hair that breaks or falls out
  • Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
  • Lanugo (development of thin body hair on arms and legs)
  • Constipation
  • Dry Skin
  • Osteoporosis
  • Intolerance of feeling cold
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Seizures

Emotional and Behavioral Signs of an Eating Disorder

Obsession with food and dieting that seems compulsive and can eventually disrupt school, work, or relationships with friends and family.

  • Refusal to eat and skipping meals.
  • Making excuses for not eating.
  • Eating only a small number of what one considers “safe” foods, often that are low in fat and calories.
  • Claiming one is not hungry, even when starving.
  • Obsession with weight, body size, and shape.
  • Odd eating behaviors, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing it.
  • Excessive exercise.
  • Weighing oneself multiple times per day.
  • Frequently looking in the mirror and obsessing over perceived flaws.
  • Wearing clothes that are too baggy to hide one’s body.
  • Complaining about being fat.

If you or a loved one are ready to end your bad relationship with extreme dieting for good and learn to appreciate what a healthy body really looks and feels like, there are support resources available that can help. Professional treatment centers will help you address the underlying concerns or issues fueling your desire to be thin and learn to restore a healthy relationship with food—and your naturally beautiful self.