Identifying the warning signs – Eating disorders


This psychological disorder is often known as “the secretive illness”, because of how people do anything to hide what they are doing.  This disorder is also close to me, as my half-sister once fought one of these eating disorders, and the sad thing is when she came to visit myself and my partner in Gauteng, she would always go straight to the bathroom after eating.  We always felt something wasn’t right but we ignored it because she would always come up with a ‘valid excuse’; but we ignore the warning signs.  Things like going straight to the bathroom after eating and her playing music loudly on her phone, should have triggered a concern – she was clearly drowning out the sounds of her vomiting.

My sister, eventually came right and I am proud to say today, that she is healthy and a stunning girl.  When I had my nervous break-down, she was the one who kept messaging me and calling me every day as she understood exactly what I was going through psychologically.

Needless to say, todays blog is to help family and friends identify a loved one who potentially may be suffering with an easting disorder.  So I am asking you to read this one carefully, because as I said this is the “secretive illness” and can mistakenly be over-looked.

Eating disorders are characterized by obsessive concerns with weight and disruptive eating patterns that negatively impact physical and mental health

So what are the different types of eating disorders?

  • Anorexia Nervosais characterized by restricted food consumption that leads to weight loss and a very low body weight. Those who experience this disorder also have a preoccupation and fear of gaining weight as well as a distorted view of their own appearance and behaviour.


  • Bulimia nervosainvolves binging and then taking extreme steps to compensate for these binges. These compensatory behaviours might include self-induced vomiting, the abuse of laxatives or diuretics, and excessive exercise.


  • Rumination disorder is marked by regurgitating previously chewed or swallowed food in order to either spit it out or re-swallow it. Most of those affected by this disorder are children or adults who also have a developmental delay or intellectual disability. Additional problems that can result from this behaviour include dental decay, esophageal ulcers (a type of peptic ulcer), and malnutrition.


  • Pica involves craving and consuming non-food substances such as dirt, paint, or soap. The disorder most commonly affects children and those with developmental disabilities.


  • Binge-eating disorder involves episodes of binge eating where the individual consumes an unusually large amount of food, over the course of a couple hours. Not only do people overeat, however, they also feel as if they have no control over their eating. Binge eating episodes are sometimes triggered by certain emotions such as feeling happy or anxious, by boredom or following stressful events.


How you can help a friend you suspect may have an eating disorder?

  • Don’t fight with them about food. Often, those who suffer from anorexia or bulimia feel that the only thing they have control over is their bodies and their food intake. When you get into a power struggle about food, your loved one may feel threatened.
  • Learn more details about the different eating disorders. Education is key to understanding how someone with an eating disorder may feel and why they are acting the way they are.
  • Never throw the “guilt card” at them. An individual feeling guilty will most likely never be motivate to recovery.
  • Encourage them to get professional help – especially if they are in immediate physical danger.
  • Talk about issues other than food. People with eating disorders constantly think about food. Changing the subject may help.


If you or a loved one need help, contact the Eating Disorders South Africa on 012 993 1060

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