How could I have missed the signs?

Dieting and eating disorders exist along a continuum, so it can be difficult to work out when a diet turns into an eating disorder. It is not uncommon to “miss” the early warning signs of an eating disorder and there are a number of reasons for this.

People who have or who are developing eating disorders tend to be secretive about their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, or to deny that there is a problem. The person is not being wilful or setting out to purposely lie about what is happening – hiding what they are doing, thinking and feeling is part of the disorder and may also be a reaction to shame, guilt or distress.

Friends, parents and carers can often feel confused and scared at this time. Trying to remember the person who is underneath the eating disorder is essential, as is encouraging open communication as much as possible (and not just about eating, but about life in general).

Essentially, when the disordered eating behaviours start interfering with normal functioning (e.g. physical health, psychological wellbeing, social functioning) the presence of an eating disorder should be considered.

Always speak with a trusted health professional about your concerns. They will explore a range of factors including the person’s age, stage of development, health status, gender, occupation etc, in order to make a diagnosis.