In the United States alone, over 30 million people throughout all ages and genders are affected by anorexia or other forms of eating disorders and disordered eating. With all of the pressures around dieting and creating this “ideal image” – there is a lot of space for disordered eating to get out of hand, and often go overlooked.
Anorexia isn’t a choice that someone makes overnight. It is often fueled by years of complicated relationships around food, weight, expectations, and societal pressures. If you are wondering if you are suffering from anorexia, and not sure if you should reach out for help, see if you can identify with any of these common 7 signs.
Are You Consumed With the Fear of Gaining Weight?
The issue of weight is one that is widely discussed in our country, dieting is everywhere, and being “fit” or “fab”. Do you find yourself constantly enveloped with the goal of getting fit or thin? Do you compare yourself to all of your friends, models, Instagram personalities, and celebrities? If so, how does it feel for you when you are comparing? Do you feel anxious, jealous, or calm?
The difference between anorexia and other forms of dieting is that for many people who struggle with anorexia, the standard of a “healthy ideal” is far more disruptive to everyday life. People with anorexia often spend hours a day focused on not eating foods, how to avoid eating, and how to burn off what little they have eaten that day. For people who do not experience anorexia, if they slip on their diet, it won’t be devastating, but for those who struggle with anorexia, a slip could mean days of guilt, shame, and defeating self-talk.
Do You Find Yourself Counting Calories, Fats, Sugars, Carbs, etc?
Many people want to live healthily and eat healthily, however, for people with anorexia, the concept of “counting calories” can often be taken to an extreme level. There are vast overlaps between anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorders, so for people who struggle with disordered eating, the act of counting calories, fat intake, sugar, and carbs, can become more of an obsession rather than a rough guideline.
- Do you find yourself avoiding foods entirely if they have a high fat, sugar, or salt content?
- Do you feel that if you do eat a food that isn’t “healthy” that you immediately have to work out, or shame yourself?
- Do you live in an environment where people encourage you to eat healthier so you don’t gain weight? Parents, significant other, friends?
Do You Experience frequent Constipation, Abdominal Pain, Fatigue, Fainting?
If you find that you are restricting foods or avoiding meals, have you experienced any physical side effects from that, such as dizziness, fatigue, lethargy, constipation, or sharp abdominal pain? Have you experienced any complications with your menstrual cycle, i.e. missed periods, unusually light flow, or odd consistencies?
Those who struggle with anorexia experience physical side effects such as these because their bodies become malnourished due to the lack of vitamins and nutrients in their system. Many women who struggle with anorexia have a lot of difficulty around their menstrual cycle or do not have them at all.
Also, a lack of food in the body creates a constant feeling of fatigue, which can then actually give way into extreme bursts of energy and hyperactiveness. If you find that you have a hard time with your digestive system such as frequent to constant constipation or the feeling of a rock in your stomach, you might want to speak with a doctor or psychologist about your eating habits.
Do You Feel Pressured by Your Family or Those you Love to Stay Thin?
Just like with any other addiction or mental disorder, eating disorders are often caused by deeper rooted traumas. This is why these are often referred to as “family diseases” as in most cases, a member of the family, in some way or another, has had a lasting effect on us that causes us to act out in other ways, be it restricting food, taking diet pills, purging, or drinking.
Many people who are recovering from anorexia can now admit that they experienced a time in their life when they either felt out of control or that they had to meet the expectations of others. For example, a lack of control could come from:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- A divorce
- The death of a loved one
- An alcoholic or addict parent
- Absent or emotionally detached parents
The expectations of others can often have a huge impact on us as we are children developing. For example, many people in recovery from eating disorders state that they had a parent who would often fat shame, or tells them no one would want them if they were fat. This can lead to a morphed sense of healthy ideals for the child and can lead to anorexia.
Have you ever felt like restricting your eating was the only way you felt in control or that if you didn’t stay thin, people wouldn’t love or accept you?
Do You Avoid Situations That Revolve Around Food?
Do you get anxious when you think about family holidays that are centered around food, such as Thanksgiving or Easter? Do you feel uncomfortable knowing people will be discussing food, sharing food, and even sitting around talking about how “full” they are after the meal?
Do you avoid going out to birthday dinners with friends, or on dinner dates with romantic partners? Many people who struggle with anorexia find shared mealtimes to be a challenging time. They can often find good ways to avoid the meal entirely or to make up a good excuse as to why they aren’t eating.
Have You Experienced Any of These Physical Effects?
People who struggle with anorexia often experience a wide range of physical side effects that can mirror or be confused for other health problems. The most common side effects from anorexia are:
- Low thyroid hormone levels
- Low potassium
- Feeling Cold all the time
- Dry Skin and Brittle Nails
- Fine hair on body and thinning of hair on the head
- Frequent onsets of colds or allergy-like illnesses
All of these physical side effects are due to a lowered immune system, and a lack of nutrition present in the body. For example, many people with anorexia develop a fine hair along their face, chest, back, and hands, as the body’s attempt to keep itself warm due to lack of adipose tissue.
Anorexia can be dangerous because even if a person presents healthy in lab results, they could have extremely low electrolyte counts, which can cause sudden death by cardiac arrest. If you are experiencing these physical side effects from lack of eating, please reach out to a doctor or therapist soon.
Do You Worry That You Will Lose Control of Everything if You Stop Restricting?
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of similarities between anorexia and traits of those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anorexia is usually characterized by obsessively thinking about food, weight, eating, dieting, not eating, etc. Similarly, the compulsivity of it lies in the counting of calories, in the strange way food is eaten, organized, or prepared, and the exercise or even purging rituals that take place with it.
For many people with anorexia, losing the structure and rituals around restricting foods makes them feel as though they are losing control of their lives. Have you felt that your eating is the one thing you can control? Do you feel powerful when you skip a meal, or when you go a whole day without eating?
Get Help Today Through Breathe’s Anorexia Treatment Program
If you can relate to any of these questions and are concerned that you might be struggling with anorexia, you are not alone. Millions of people, in the United States and around the world, struggle in silence with an eating disorder. Call Breathe’s anorexia treatment program today to start your journey to recovery.