Eating disorders are a danger to the health and well-being of the individual suffering. That is why it is important to stage an intervention as soon as the problem is identified and to ensure that it is appropriate for the needs of the individual.

Symptoms Of An Eating Disorder

There are different types of eating disorders; however, most will be:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa

In both cases, the risks associated with the eating disorder can be harsh on the body and the mind. Recognizing the symptoms of an eating disorder can help determine if it is time to start setting up an intervention.

Anorexia Nervosa Signs and Symptoms

anorexia nervosa

The common signs associated with anorexia include:

  • Refusing to eat
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted view of the body
  • Fear of eating in public
  • Very thin body, sometimes to the point of emancipation
  • Lack of menstrual cycle in women
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Insomnia
  • General irritability or mood swings
  • Irregular heart beat

When anorexia develops to an extreme level, the dangers associated with the eating disorder can become very harsh. The Mayo Clinic states that the obsession with staying thin can even lead to self-starvation and death if it is not treated.

Bulimia Signs and Symptoms

Bulimia is classified by the way that an individual eats a large amount of food and then attempts to eliminate the food through purging, explains the Mayo Clinic.

Common signs associated with bulimia include:

  • Eating large amounts of foods, particularly unhealthy foods, until it is painful
  • Excessive measures to purge the calories, such as excessive exercise, vomiting after a meal or taking laxatives
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative and distorted view of the body
  • Large focus on the body size and shape
  • Sores in the mouth or on the lips
  • Damaged teeth
  • Lack of a menstrual cycle in women
  • Consistently trying to diet or fast

Binge Eating Signs and Symptoms

Signs of binge eating disorder may include:

Binge eating

Changing The Thought Processes

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, individuals who have anorexia or bulimia will have changes to the way that their brain functions and works. the impact of the eating disorder on the brain can make it more difficult to recognize that the behavior is causing severe damage to the body.

When the disorder is not treated, the structure of the brain can change and shift, which results in disordered thinking patterns. In some cases, the changes can cause seizures and severe damage to the nerves throughout the body.

The changes to thinking patterns and the brain’s structure can be particularly worrisome due to the way that it impacts the individual’s view on the situation. The brain is not processing information in the same way that a healthy individual is able to understand the information.

That can cause more disordered views of the body and a lack of concern when it relates to health problems that develop.

Other Risks Associated With Eating Disorders

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An intervention for an eating disorder must also factor in other problems that may contribute to the disorder or may be complicating the treatment options. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, roughly 50 percent of individuals who have an eating disorder will also abuse drugs or alcohol.

That rate is almost 5 times more than the rate of substance abuse in the general population, reports the National Eating Disorders Association.

The risk is particularly high among individuals who show signs of bulimia, explains Vanderbilt University. While rates of substance abuse among individuals with anorexia are generally around 19 percent, Vanderbilt University reports that between 25 and 49 percent of individuals who are diagnosed with bulimia nervosa will abuse drugs or alcohol.

Physical And Emotional Risks

Emotional risks

The substance abuse can further harm the body and cause additional concerns when it comes to treatment solutions. Furthermore, certain substances can alter the way that the mind works and the appearance of the brain. As a result, the individual may see hallucinations or may exhibit signs of severe mood swings.

Behavior can become erratic, particularly when the substances that are abused can have a detrimental impact on the individual’s mood. Some substances can cause hallucinations or paranoia to develop, which further complicates the intervention.

If a loved one is abusing a substance and has clear signs of an eating disorder, then it may be time to set up an intervention with the assistance of a professional. It is generally not recommended to handle the intervention without professional assistance due to the possible behavioral challenges and the changes to the brain that may develop.

Plan The Intervention

Organize the goals and the individuals who are involved. Every individual should discuss his or her concerns, but should not blame the individual who needs treatment. Blame will only cause denial or defensiveness, which ultimately makes it harder to convince a loved on to seek treatment. Clearly state the facts and discuss personal feelings, but avoid blaming words.

Determine consequences if the individual refuses to seek treatment. Consequences may include:


The consequences that are most appropriate for the individual can vary, but it is important for each individual to determine what he or she will do if a loved one refuses to seek treatment.

It may be important for the attending family members and friends to take drastic measures for personal health, even if it means that it is necessary to stop visiting or communicating with a loved one until he or she is ready to start working on recovery.

An intervention can be challenging and painful for every individual who is involved, but it is also an important part of encouraging a loved one to move forward with life and start planning for a healthy future.

Have The Intervention

Staging an intervention may be primarily about planning, but the actual event is the important part of resolving the eating disorder and you must stay fully committed. Keep in mind that a loved one may not be able to logically recognize that he or she is underweight or unhealthy.

It may be necessary to show that the weight is not healthy and to point out health concerns. Even pointing out beauty problems, such as dry skin or the discomfort associated with bulimia and the damages to the esophagus, can be appropriate.

During the intervention, focus on personal concerns and the actions that you want a loved one to take. Avoid statements that can be considered blaming so that a loved one will not be defensive.

Appropriate statements may include:

  • “I feel…” statements, which primarily discuss personal feelings or concerns
  • “I fear…” statements, which can point out health concerns or fears associated with the eating disorder
  • Specific examples of the challenges associated with the disorder

Follow through

Follow Through

Staging an intervention for an eating disorder does not stop after the intervention occurs. Follow through with the plan by encouraging treatment. If the individual refuses to go to a treatment facility, then follow through with any consequences that were discussed during the intervention.

A successful intervention must follow through effectively. If the individual does not face any consequences and continues to refuse treatment, then it will be harder to encourage recovery in the future. Take action based on the behavior of the individual who needs treatment. If he or she decides to go into a treatment program, then offer support throughout the treatment.

Staging an intervention after a loved one shows signs of an eating disorder can be challenging. It may be emotionally challenging and risks that are related to the behavior of a loved one can arise; however, it is also essential for a loved one to recover. It is possible to recover from an eating disorder and substance abuse, but it often require assistance from professionals.

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