Individuals, both male and female, can develop eating orders at any time of life. However, the teens and early adult years are the most problematic, with early signs often developing in late childhood to the early teens.
For parents or loved ones of people with currently diagnosed eating disorders, www.philippejacquet.co.uk offers several exceptional blogs and articles. These can provide parents with an understanding of the mental health aspects of the disorders, and also to know what to expect for long-term treatment and management.
Knowing what to look for, particularly the often overlooked early signs, is important. Remember, parents, friends and even teachers or school counsellors may be the first people to notice changes in a child or young adult. Failing to step in and to get help for the individual can result in more pronounced mental health issues as well as significantly increased risks for the physical health issues associated with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
Obsession with Body Image
One of the earliest signs or red flags of an eating disorder or potential to develop an eating disorder is an obsession or a fixation on body image. This includes constantly comparing themselves to an idealised “perfect” body image that may be a star, a model, or an athlete.
The individual may constantly compare themselves to this individual or the perfect body image. Even a slight “imperfection” will be a constant source of distress for the individual. It would not be uncommon to hear an individual with a body image issue talk about being fat, not being able to stay on a diet, or not being able to gain muscles or get that ripped look.
Most of these people are also uncomfortable with comments about their person appearance and immediately point out their “flaws”. They may even become very upset with positive comments and attempt to avoid wearing clothing that shows off what they think is their imperfect shape and form.
While exercising is good for both physical and mental health, over-exercise or exercising obsessively is not healthy. As discussed in several articles on the Philippe Jacquet website, when highly restrictive dieting or purging is combined with extreme exercise routines it is an early sign of potential problems.
This can be a problem for both young men and women, particularly if they are involved in competitive sports. If people become distressed over missing a workout or work out more than recommended or advised by coaches and trainers, getting help from a counsellor or therapist can be instrumental in the early identification of possible issues.
Skin and Hair
When humans deprive themselves of food through restrictive diets or purging, all systems of the body change. For individuals on highly restrictive diets or those that purge regularly, signs of dehydration may result in changes to the skin.
Look for skin that is chronically dry, shows signs of blotchy or uneven colouring, or the development of skin lesions that heal very slowly or not at all. The hair often looks dull and dry and may grow very slowly. With extended starvation and malnourishment, the hair may begin to fall out of the head, and some individuals will develop a fine, downy hair on the face and body.
For more information on the signs and symptoms of eating disorders in the early stages, visit Philippe Jacquet You will find professional, specialised information for body image and eating disorders for parents, loved ones and professionals