It’s estimated that eating disorders affect over 16% of Australians. The obsession of food, eating, weight and/or body image is a very serious mental illness which can be extremely detrimental to the development of women at all ages, but particularly if this occurs during teenage years.
Signs of Anorexia Nervosa
Significant weight loss over a short period of time.
Constant feeling of fatigue and struggle to sleep.
Changes in mood and emotional state.
Feeling the cold more than the average person.
Feeling dizzy or faint.
Obsession with food and/or meal times.
Avoiding meal time or occasions that involve food.
Having distorted view of appearance and body.
Obsessed about image, weight and body shape.
Secretive behaviour around food.
Signs of Bulimia Nervosa.
It can be more difficult to recognise if someone you love is struggling with bulimia compared to anorexia as they may not necessarily be underweight. Here are some signs to look out for:
Binge eating in secret.
Vomiting up food to get rid of excessive calories.
Obsession with weight and food.
Eating large amounts in one sitting.
Fasting, restricting food.
Not wanting to eat in public.
Damaged gums and teeth.
Where to find help?
If you’re concerned about a loved one struggling with eating disorders, be mindful they may get defensive and shut down if you ask them directly if they have anorexia or bulimia. They may feel attacked or embarrassed.
I’d suggest opening up the lines of communication when you feel the time is right, by gently asking if they’re ok. They may not open up immediately, and that’s ok. It is important not to push the conversation. Remind them that you’re always there for them. Seeking professional help is the most beneficial thing for someone struggling with an eating disorder, however you cannot force someone to get help, they need to want to do it for themselves. You can always speak to your GP who will be able to guide you in the right direction, perhaps passing on details of a local psychologist who specialises in eating disorders and promoting a healthy mindset.
The Butterfly Foundation is an amazing online resource to help anyone suffering from eating disorders. They have multiple ways you can speak to a professional from 8 am - midnight, seven days a week. You can chat online, chat over the phone 1800 33 4673 or via email.
Their website also provides a huge amount of information including risks and warning signs, treatment, information and resources.
Headspace - eheadspace provides free online and telephone support and counselling to young people 12 - 25 and their families and friends. If you’re based in Australia and going through a tough time, eheadspace can help. They are also available to chat online, over the phone 1800 650 890 or via email.
Lifeline - 13 11 14 - Available 24/7 hotline. If you are thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis help is available. No one needs to face their problems alone.