1. Food itself is not the primary problem. Instead, eating patterns are symptoms of serious distress. 

An estimated eight million Americans suffer from some type of disordered eating according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). Disorders include: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder. Not all disordered eating is seen as "unhealthy", take for example Orthorexia Nervosa is compulsive attitude and behavior about healthful eating. 

Adolescencents are at particular risk. There's an estimated 1 out of every 100 teenage girls in the United States that will develop anorexia according to the ANAD. 

2. Early detection is crucial. The sooner the person gets help, the better the chance for permanent recovery. 

Early signs for anorexia:

  • Eating tiny portions, refusing to eat, and denying they are hungry.
  • Showing abnormal weight loss, as much as 15% or more of body weight in a short period of time. 
  • Have an intense fear of being fat. 
  • See themselves as fat, wanting to lose more weight, even when they are very thin. 
  • Suffer from constipation or irregular menstrual periods. 
  • Binge eat, then purge, perhaps by vomitting or using laxatives or diuretics. 

Early signs of Bulimia:

  • Eat mainly in private.
  • Disappear after eating, often to the bathroom. 
  • Shows great fluctuations in weight, and may be of normal weight or be overweight. 
  • Feels out of control when eating. 
  • Feels ashamed and depressed after gorging. 
  • Have swollen parotid glands. These are glands near the ears. These are a type of salivary gland. 

Early signs of Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

  • Feels out of control when eating
  • Eats unusually large amounts of food. 
  • Eats very fast. 
  • Eats until they feel uncomfortable. 
  • Eats a lot, even when not hungry. 
  • Feels disgusted, depressed, or guilty about overeating.

3. Help is available. Team treatment, including medical and dental care, psychotherapy, nutrition education, and family counseling, provide the best results. 

  • Act to get help
    • Speak to the person about your concerns. Enlist the help from family and friends. Talk to medical professionals, social workers, or a school counselor if the person is a student. Call your local mental health association. 
  • Expect resistance
    • A person with anorexia usually doesn't believe that he or she needs assistance or is in any danger. Someone with Bulimia or BED may acknowledge the problem but still refuse to seek help. 
  • Prepare for long-term treatment
    • Recovery may take several months to several years. Symptoms and attitudes related to the disordered eating rarely disappear quickly. Treatment includes helping people achieve an appropriate weight.