When diet and exercise become an obsession, the problem may be bigger than just wanting to look good. Learn to identify anorexia, a mental condition that can result in self-starvation, with these tips.
: Anorexia nervosa is potentially life-threatening. If you believe someone is anorexic, get them immediate medical help.
Step 1: Be mindful of eating habits Be aware of changes in eating habits of the person you suspect has a problem. Notice if they skip meals, make excuses to not eat in public, pick at food, or spit it out.
Step 2: Be wary of excessive exercise Notice if the person exercises excessively or works out vigorously after meals. Denial of a change in habit can also signal a problem.
Step 3: Notice mood changes Watch for mood swings and personality changes, including irritability, negativity, low self-esteem, withdrawal, perfectionism, or an inability to cope.
TIP: Personality changes are associated with many different medical situations, not just anorexia.
Step 4: Notice a change in wardrobe Note if your friend begins to wear baggy, loose-fitting, or layered clothing. This may be an attempt to hide dramatic weight loss.
Step 5: Find out about missed periods in women Ask if your friend has missed periods. Missing three or four periods in a row is a danger sign.
Step 6: Watch for sensitivity to cold Be aware of any new sensitivity to cold, and the growth of fine hair, called lanugo, on their skin. This is the body’s way of trying to keep warm.
Step 7: Notice poor health Watch for symptoms of poor health, such as thinning hair, jaundice, and bruising. These symptoms are caused by vitamin imbalances.
Step 8: Seek medical help Seek medical help. While any of these symptoms may indicate anorexia, only a trained professional can make an accurate diagnosis.
FACT: As many as 10 million women and 1 million men in the U.S. have severe eating disorders.