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Signs You or a Loved One May Have an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Spotting the signs of an eating disorder early is crucial for successful treatment and recovery. Here are 5 key indicators that you or someone you care about may be struggling with an eating disorder:

1. Preoccupation with Food and Weight

A common sign is an intense focus on food, calories, dieting, and body image. This includes frequently checking one's weight, critically examining one's body in the mirror, and thinking about food all day long. Those with eating disorders may count calories religiously, cut out entire food groups, or have strict rules around food. 

2. Significant Weight Loss or Weight Fluctuations  

Sudden weight loss, weight gain, or frequent fluctuations in weight can signal an eating disorder. The person may wear baggy clothes to disguise their weight loss. Those with bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder may maintain an average weight but have periods of major weight fluctuations.

3. Compulsive Eating Habits

Eating unusually large amounts of food in one sitting (bingeing), feeling out of control around food, and purging after eating by self-induced vomiting or using laxatives or diuretics. Bingeing and purging can happen multiple times a day. It is usually done in secret.

4. Distorted Body Image  

Viewing oneself as overweight despite being underweight or frequently expressing dissatisfaction with one's weight or body shape are key signs. The person may focus obsessively on small flaws that no one else notices or thinks are important. 

5. Withdrawal from Social Events Involving Food

Someone with an eating disorder may avoid meals with family or friends, decline invites to go out to eat, and isolate themselves more. They may make frequent excuses to avoid situations where 'unhealthy' foods may be involved due to fear and anxiety.

If you notice several of these signs in yourself or someone you care about, know that you/they are not alone. Talk to your doctor, a mental health professional that specializes in eating disorders, or a treatment center. The earlier eating disorders are caught and treated, the better the chances of recovery. Support is available.

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