According to most experts, the average age of onset for anorexia nervosa is 16-17 years old, and, contrary to popular belief, it affects both boys and girls alike. Furthermore, it can be much more difficult to spot than one might think. While we all know the most common symptoms to watch out for, such as rapid weight loss and a refusal to eat, there are often many more subtle, ‘uncommon’ signs that a person is suffering. Below is a list of some of these signs to keep an eye out for.
The majority of anorexia sufferers will spend most of their time restricting what and how much they eat. However, considering that the main goal is usually to lose as much weight as possible, some may hike up the amount of exercise they do, too. Many times, this behaviour will quickly spiral out of control. A good way in which to ascertain whether or not their exercising is ‘normal’ is to pay attention to their reaction if they are forced to miss a day of working out. If they panic, there is likely a problem at play.
Thin hair all over the body
Some anorexics may start to develop thin hair all over the body, and particularly on their faces. This hair is called ‘lanugo’ and is the same hair that covers the body of a newborn baby at birth. Lanugo is responsible for helping to regulate body temperature by providing additional insulation. Seeing as though anorexia sufferers often experience nutritional deficiencies and have insufficient body fat to regulate their body temperature, lanugo may begin to grow back in order to compensate.
A dislike of being watched while eating
Since many anorexia sufferers see eating as a weakness, they will have an intense dislike of being watched if and when they do consume anything. This also often leads to the development of a fear of eating in public. While this can be a subtle sign of anorexia, it is often observed in other eating disorders too, including in bulimia and binge eating disorder (BED).
Dry skin is often seen in those diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia, as it is often a sign of dehydration in general. If it is accompanied by other symptoms of dehydration, such as sunken cheeks and a dry mouth, an eating disorder may be a possibility.
When people with anorexia do eat, they may do so in a very specific manner. Eating rituals or compulsions, which may include cutting food into tiny pieces, eating food in a certain order, and counting the number of times they chew before swallowing, are subtle signs of an eating disorder, and may often go unnoticed for a time. Keep in mind that while eating rituals are strongly associated with eating disorders, they may also be a symptom of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
The bottom line? Seek out help if an eating disorder is suspected in a loved one, no matter how subtle the signs. The best place to look for help is at a specialist treatment center, such as the Eden Treatment Center in LA. You can find out more at edentreatment.com.
Remember, while symptoms may be difficult to detect right now, most eating disorders tend to worsen quickly, making it more challenging for the sufferer to recover. The faster the disorder is diagnosed and treated, the better.