How can you spot signs of an eating disorder in yourself or someone else?

Much like any serious condition, spotting the signs and symptoms of eating disorders early can prevent long-term health problems. Knowing what disordered eating is, what it looks like, and what isn’t normal can help you spot the signs early. Whether you’re concerned about your mental health or the health of someone you love, here’s what you should watch out for.

Do I have an eating disorder?

If you’re worried about your own behaviour and thoughts about food, you may be showing symptoms of an eating disorder. Other people can’t see what’s going on in your mind – and as a mental illness, those thoughts are often the first way an eating disorder reveals itself. Some of the signs that may be red flags for disordered eating include:

  • Feeling anxious about eating, especially in front of other people
  • Needing to follow specific rituals for food that you didn’t before
  • Checking the mirror often for flaws or problems
  • Difficulty in handling emotions surrounding foods
  • Obsessive calorie counting, dieting or being unable to think about anything other than food

Does my loved one have an eating disorder?

While someone suffering from an eating disorder may have thoughts and emotions that are telltale warnings, it’s difficult to see these signs from the outside looking in. However, if you’re worried about outward behaviours or changes in appearance or health of a loved one, these signs may indicate they need extra help and support:

  • Fluctuations in weight that are frequent
  • Distress when talking about food or weight
  • Fainting or weakness
  • A worsened immune system, resulting in frequent colds and other illnesses
  • Trouble concentrating on conversations