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How to Recognize Signs of an Eating Disorder

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According to the Eating Disorders Coalition, 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. Despite the prevalence of these conditions, however, it can sometimes be difficult to detect when someone is struggling with an eating disorder. That’s not only because there’s a wide range of signs and symptoms, but also because someone with an eating disorder may go to great lengths to conceal their behavior.

Sadly, untreated eating disorders may progress to a severe level before anyone notices something is wrong. That’s why it is essential to know what warning signs to spot.

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An Eating Disorder Is a Serious Condition

Don’t dismiss an eating disorder as a “fad diet” or a “health craze” that will go away on its own. A person who has developed an eating disorder has a serious, complex condition with far-reaching ramifications on both their emotional state and overall well-being, and the long-term effects of an eating disorder can be life-threatening, including malnutrition and even organ failure.

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Though the behavioral warning signs of an eating disorder can vary by the individual and the type of disorder they have, there are some general things to look for.

  • Fixation on body weight, calorie and fat intake
  • Constant dieting
  • Skipping meals entirely, or only eating very small amounts
  • Unwillingness to eat in front of others
  • Making meals for other people, but not eating anything
  • Preoccupation with weighing themselves and checking in the mirror for flaws
  • Mood swings
  • Cutting out entire food groups to lose more weight
  • Obsession with dieting and controlling food intake
  • Desire for perfection
  • Refusal to participate in usual activities
  • Compulsive exercise

If you notice a loved one exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should seek professional treatment immediately. The earlier you get help, the greater the chances of making a complete physical and mental recovery.

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It can be painful to watch a loved one struggle with an eating disorder and the difficulties it brings, but the good news is that you don’t have to go through this challenging time on your own. Eating disorders are treatable, and at Guardian Recovery, we are here to help provide case management and family counseling for those with anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating. You can reach out to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to start the journey toward healing.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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