ZocdocAnswersWhat are the symptoms of an eating disorder?

Question

What are the symptoms of an eating disorder?

I think that my cousin has an eating disorder. She has lost a lot of weight in a short period of time. Would there be any symptoms I should look for? I don't want to just accuse her of having a problem but I want to help her too.

Answer

Eating disorders are a very challenging situation for patients and their concerned family members and friends, since the disorders themselves cause such significant disruption of the affected person's overall life and health. Rapid weight loss can certainly be a concerning warning sign. The most common eating disorders include anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Anorexics typically restrict calories, and the disease is associated with harmful weight loss that can be life threatening. People with anorexia are often obsessed with their weight/body image and will continue to express a belief that they are fat, even when they are clearly not. Anorexics also can workout to extremes. People suffering from bulimia will continue to eat but will often binge eat and then avoid significant weight gain by purging (vomiting, laxatives etc). People with mixed anorexia/bulimia will have characteristics of both. Treating eating disorders is very difficulty, and in order to be successful the patient herself as to want to participate. The best thing you can do for your cousin is to encourage her to take care of her health and be open to discussing health concerns with her physician. It can be hard to accept advice or criticism from a family member, but you can certainly encourage her to take care of herself and make regular visits with her physician a priority.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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