It can be difficult to identify an eating disorder due to the secrecy and shame surrounding them. Though each eating disorder is different, there are signs that you can look for. This list of symptoms is directly from the Public Health Agency of Canada:

  • Irritability, depression and social withdrawal
  • Excessive preoccupation with calories, food or "healthy eating"
  • Frequent negative comments about their weight and shape
  • Restriction of food intake
  • Making excuses to avoid eating
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain (regardless of previous weight)
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Frequently eating excessive amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Consuming food alone, at night or secretly
  • Using laxatives or diet pills
  • Going to the bathroom immediately after eating

Does Weight Matter?

Individuals of all sizes, shapes, and weights can experience eating disorders. It is impossible to tell the acuity of this disease  by simply looking at an individual. Most eating disorder treatment programs utilize a “Health at Every Size Approach,” which advocates for the fact that individuals of all weights, shapes, and sizes can be healthy if they are treating their bodies with care. For more information, please visit NEDA’s website.

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Health Consequences

Eating disorders are the leading cause of death among all mental illnesses. Yet, many deaths go unreported as they are caused by the health complications surrounding the eating disorder1. Below are some examples of these serious health concerns:

  • Electrolyte imbalances such as: Hypokalemia (low potassium) and hypochloremic (blood chloride) or metabolic acidosis (due to purging, acid unbalance).
  • Dehydration, edema (fluid in the skin or lungs), hypomagnesemia (magnesium imbalance), and hyperamylasemia (high amalyze levels which cause issues with digestion)
  • Cardiovascular problems: arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), hypotension (low blood pressure), and bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
  • Gastrointestinal complications: esophagitis and parotitis (inflammation of the salivary glands) due to vomiting 
  • Delayed gastric emptying due to starvation
  • Other: liver dysfunction, osteoporosis (brittle bones), respiratory failure, Alopecia, lanugo hair and oral complications with gums and teeth

Adolescents suffering from these disorders are often at an even higher risk of such complications since they are still in the early stages of physical development and unique clinical presentation

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other psychiatric disorder, with 10% dying within the first 10 years of the onset of their disorder. For young women between 15-24 years of age, the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than that of all other causes of death.