How to Recognize Signs of Eating Disorders in Friends and Family


An eating disorder is considered to be abnormal eating habits associated with a psychological disorder. There are several different types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Any one of these can seriously impact a person’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.

It’s not always easy to tell if someone you love is battling an eating disorder. Most people try to hide these symptoms and behaviors from others because they feel ashamed. But if you are able to recognize signs of an eating disorder in someone you care about, you may be able to help them address the issue and overcome it. Here are the top ways to recognize signs of eating disorders in friends and family members.

Sudden, Dramatic Weight Loss

Sudden, dramatic weight loss is one of the most common signs of eating disorders. It often occurs because the affected individual stops eating sufficient calories and nutrition to sustain their body’s daily needs.

Obsession With Dieting, Weight, and Food

Often, a person with an eating disorder will become obsessive about their weight and dieting. He or she will often put unhealthy dietary restrictions in place and may be so preoccupied with dieting that nothing else matters.

Changes in Appearance

An eating disorder typically leads to changes in appearance over time. Some of the most common physical changes include:

  • Thinning of hair on the head
  • Calluses or cuts across the joints at the tops of the fingers (due to inducing vomiting)
  • Brittle, dry nails
  • Swelling of the feet
  • Cold, mottled hands
  • Discoloration of teeth or cavities (due to vomiting)
  • Dizziness and fainting spells

Individuals with eating disorders are also commonly sick, due to the impaired immune function caused by insufficient calorie and nutrient intake.

Cooks for Others but Doesn’t Eat

People with eating disorders will often cook food for others but abstain from eating. If you notice a loved one frequently sits back and watches while others eat, it may be an indication that he or she is dealing with an eating disorder.

Exercises Excessively

A person with an eating disorder often exercises excessively – even when ill – in an attempt to lose weight. Often, he or she will head to the gym immediately after enjoying a meal in an attempt to burn off the recently-consumed calories.

Withdrawal From Loved Ones

It’s quite common for a person with an eating disorder to withdraw from friends, family, and social activities. If you notice someone you care about becoming more isolated and secretive, there’s a good chance he or she may have an eating disorder and is attempting to hide it from others.

How You Can Help

If you recognize any of these signs of an eating disorder in someone you love, there are things you can do to help. Approach them with honesty about your concerns and assure them that you are there to support them through the healing process.

Another recommended course of action is helping your loved one pursue professional help for their condition. High Focus Centers offers effective treatment programs to help individuals combat the effects of eating disorders. Contact us through our online form to learn more.