Do You Know Someone?

Do you know the risk factors for developing an eating disorder? Here are some:

  • Family history of depression, anxiety, or addiction
  • Temperament – how one is hard wired from birth (perfectionistic, people-pleasing, sensitive, conflict avoidant, difficulty coping with change, etc.)
  • Cognitive style (obsessional thinking, dichotomous thinking, etc.)
  • Poor body image
  • Family issues
  • Transitional stressors during development (loss or trauma)
  • Unreasonable cultural standards regarding weight and appearance
  • Genetics

Having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee that someone will develop an eating disorder. Rather, these are factors common to those who have eating disorders. Having one or more of these risk factors can indicate an increased risk of developing an eating disorder.

Someone you know may have an eating disorder if they:

  • Have an intense fear of becoming fat.
  • Constantly think about weight or feeling fat.
  • Spend excessive amounts of time thinking about food & critiquing their food choices.
  • Define their self-worth by their weight.
  • Favor eating alone.
  • Feel extreme guilt or shame after eating.
  • Label food as “good” and “bad.”
  • Eat large amounts of food in short periods of time.
  • Feel out of control while eating.
  • Have tried to get rid of food they’ve consumed.
  • Frequently skip lunch.
  • Go to the bathroom after meals and prefer to go alone.

If you think someone you know would identify with one or more of the above statements and you suspect that they may have an eating disorder, you can make a difference in this person’s life by helping them identify the problem and get help. Most who struggle are in denial. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 individuals suffering from an eating disorder seeks help. Research shows that the sooner someone gets help, the faster their recovery.

Confronting the issue is often tough to do. Remember that the hardest part is initiating the conversation. Start out by letting this person know you are concerned about them. Share with compassion what you are observing using “I statements.” Here is an example:

I really care about you, and I am worried. I notice you only eat certain foods and refuse others you label as “bad.” I also notice you seem more withdrawn. You don’t go out with us on the weekends; you say you need to exercise. I have a list of eating disorder signs. If I gave you some resources would you consider reading them and making some calls to see if this is an eating disorder?

For more tips on what to say, click here:

The good news is that eating disorders are treatable! The first step is identifying the problem. One can recover and live a life full of purpose, freedom, and happiness.

By Kori Hintz-Bohn, MA, LCPC, CEDS
Senior Clinical & Program Consultant – McCallum Place of Kansas City
Executive Director – Renew Counseling Center