The development of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, is complex. They are often believed to arise as a result of complex interactions between biological, psychological, and social factors. Just like any symptom, eating disorders are an individual’s attempt to resolve an underlying psychical crisis. Eating disorders can have their roots in infancy but most frequently develop as a specific set of behaviors in middle school, high school, or the first years of college. Times of life transition and family or social stressors will frequently trigger its onset. We have found that the younger the patient, the more important it is to treat the parents and family in conjunction with the individual experiencing the symptoms. Here at the Eating Disorder Center of Montana (EDCMT) we recognize that eating issues occur at a higher rate among those who have suffered some form of trauma and abuse and occur alongside longterm depression and anxiety.

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Red Flags

There are several factors that contribute to the development (or existence) of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Because eating disorders are complicated, and because the sufferer generally does his or her utmost to cover up the signs and symptoms, it is important to know what to look for. Below are several signs that a person is struggling with an eating disorder and needs help.

  • Constant thoughts about his/her weight
  • Enjoys cooking for others but not for themselves
  • Finds that their weight determines their mood for the day
  • Avoids eating with friends and family
  • Feels guilty after he/she eats
  • Frequently compares their body size and shape to others
  • Weight fluctuates drastically over short time spans
  • Compulsively exercises
  • Preoccupation with the eating behaviors of others
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Eating to relieve stress or depression
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Laxative/diuretic abuse
  • Constant concern of being fat
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hair loss
  • Preoccupation with calories, nutrition, food, cooking, and exercise

  • Frequently weighs him/herself
  • Binge uncontrollably on large amounts of food to the point of feeling sick
  • Participation in frequent diet fads
  • Lying to others about eating patterns
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Dizzy spells, fainting, or blackouts
  • Always feeling cold
  • Fine body hair on his/her body
  • Swollen, puffy cheeks
  • Feels confused about their emotions/has fear of expressing them
  • Skips school or work because he/she feels fat or sick
  • Eats the same rigid foods all the time
  • Extreme exercise regimen, even when injured or sick, or no exercise at all
  • Declines social engagements because he/she must work out
  • Loss of interest in things he/she used to enjoy
  • Purchases clothing based on the size instead of the fit

Recommended Reading

General Reading

Hungry: One Woman’s Battle with and Victory over Anorexia and Bulimia by Jessica Edwards Skinner

Hunger Strike: The Anorectic’s Struggle as a Metaphor for Our Age by Susie Orbach (1986)
The Eating Disorder Sourcebook (2007) by Carolyn Costin
Andrea’s Voice—Silenced by Bulimia (2006) by Doris Schmeltzer
Desperately Seeking Self (1997) by Viola Fodor
Handbook for the Soul (1995) by Carlson and Shields
Breaking Free from Emotional Eating (2003) by Geneen Roth

Eating Disorders and Marriage: The Couple in Focus (1993) by D. Blake Woodside
Honey Does This Make My Butt Look Big? (2005) by Lydia Hanich
Eve’s Apple (1998) by Jonathan Rosen (fiction, about a man in love with a woman with an eating disorder, helpful in relating to issues that come up in relationships).
The Body Myth (2005) by Margo Maine and Joe Kelly
Life Without Ed (2003) by Jenni Schaefer and Thom Rutledge (Helps separate out the person from the illness).

For Parents and Family Members of Teens or Tweens

Your Dieting Daughter (1996) by Carolyn Costin
Surviving an Eating Disorder (1997) by Siegel et al.
Because I Feel Fat (2004) by Paulson & McShane
I’m, Like, So Fat (2005) by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer
The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders: Supporting Self-Esteem, Healthy Eating, and Positive Body-Image at Home (2007) Marcia Herrin & Nancy Matsumoto
Mom, I Hate My Life (2004) by Sharon Hersh
Positive Discipline for Teenagers/ Positive Discipline (2006) by Jane Nelson
The Second Family: Dealing with Peer Power, Pop Culture, the Wall of Silence — and Other Challenges of Raising Today’s Teens (2002) by Ron Taffel and Melinda Blau
Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders (2011) by Becky Henry
Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman (2009)
Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (2003) by Rachel Simmons
Reviving Ophelia (2005) by Mary Pipher
Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child (2001) by Robert MacKenzie, Ed.D