When we think of an eating disorder, our minds go to rapid weight loss and obvious aversions to meals. Most of us think it’d be pretty easy to tell if one of our friends had such a mental health condition — after all, we see them all the time, right?
Some behaviors are obvious indicators of an eating disorder, this is true. But it’s not always that simple. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. And this really needs to be taken seriously, because it can be surprisingly deadly.
Your first step in being the friend who could potentially save a life is knowing the signs. Many people with this mental illness do indeed lose weight quickly, but that’s not always how it goes — and there are plenty of other symptoms to watch out for. Here’s what you need to know.
1. They push their food around their plate
Not everyone with an eating disorder refuses to sit down to dinner. Some may appear to be eating and enjoying the meal, but if you look closely you notice they spend most of their time pushing their food around the plate so it looks like more was eaten. That’s a definite sign of a problem. Family Lives explains the food may also be cut into very small chunks, hid in pockets, or put under the table for pets to have.
These behaviors are most common among those who have anorexia. Your friend may want to appear normal and still spend time with their family and friends, but they also demand complete control over what goes into their bodies.