It’s the most basic of questions and the one most often asked on the Butterfly Helpline: How do you know it’s an eating disorder?
“If you’re even considering that there might be an eating disorder going on,” says Dr. Simon Wilksch, senior eating disorders research fellow at Flinders University, “it’s likely there’s something happening that’s worth checking out.”
Why? The problem is that a key feature of an eating disorder is that the person experiencing it often hides their condition and doesn’t see it as a treatable issue. Meanwhile, left undiagnosed and untreated, an eating disorder can lead to serious and long-lasting physical, psychological, and social consequences.
Matthew knew little about eating disorders, so when his daughter began restricting her diet and increasing her exercising, at first, he believed her reassurances that she was OK. It was only when she had to be hospitalised for malnutrition that he and the family were galvanised into action.
Jane couldn’t relate to the typical symptoms, yet her eating disorder was ruining her life. When she finally broke down exhausted by years of distress and behaviours she got the help that she needed and fully recovered.
The good news is that there are resources that outline the signs, symptoms, and risks, and screening tools for frontline health professionals. First, listen to our new podcast to learn more about what is – or isn’t – an eating disorder.
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