When is it Time to Enter Eating Disorder Treatment?

Asian American Woman struggling with Eating Disorders and Diabetes

Eating disorders are marked by denial and shame and often create a distrust of others as well as oneself. This makes it challenging to know when it is truly time to enter eating disorder treatment.

There are a few tell-tale signs that can indicate the need to consult an eating disorder professional.

Is it Time to Enter Eating Disorder Treatment

If Your Relationship with Food & Exercise is Impacting Your Daily Life

This is one of the diagnostic criteria for eating disorder diagnosis, and many eating disorder professionals gage this in order to learn the severity of disordered behaviors.

Examine your daily life and consider how your relationship to food and exercise impacts it. Are you often centering your daily schedule, work, school, social life, etc. around your eating habits?

Is it making it difficult for you to maintain employment or maintain relationships? If your disordered eating behaviors are impacting your daily functioning, you need and deserve to seek treatment and move toward living a more full life.

If Your Health Has Suffered

This is hugely important. If your health has been impacted, it is likely your eating disorder is or is becoming more severe. Treatment may be required to help you become medically stable before even focusing on eating disorder thoughts and behaviors.

If you are noticing menstrual irregularities, fainting, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, feeling cold all the time, dental problems, dry skin, hair, and nails, fine hair on the body, impaired immune functioning, or yellowing skin, it is incredibly important that you seek out a doctor [1].

While the symptoms above may be outwardly clear, your doctor will also help by assessing the health impact your eating disorder is having. This will occur by evaluating at your metabolic rate, electrolyte levels, blood pressure, etc. [2].

It May be Time to Enter Eating Disorder Treatment if Your Mental Health Has Worsened

In impacting the physical body, eating disorders also impact the brain.

“Although the brain only weighs three pounds, it consumes up to one-fifth of the body’s calories [2],” meaning, the fewer calories that are consumed, the more the brain suffers.

As a brain is starved, it can lead to in an increased obsession over food. Research has found that eating disorders are highly comorbid with other co-occurring mental health issues, particularly Major Depressive Disorder.

Woman looking at her reflection wondering if it is time to enter eating disorder treatmentOne study found that “lifetime rates of MDD in individuals with eating disorders range between 50% and 75% [3].”

Additionally, it has been found that individuals with an eating disorder diagnosis experience increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors [3].

If you notice your mental health symptoms worsening over time, it is important to seek treatment.

Why You Are reading This Blog

Ultimately, if you “accidentally” clicked the link to this blog and are wondering if you need support, more than likely, your gut is telling you that you do.

Eating disorders involve a lot of denial, shame, and guilt. In the throes of an eating disorder, an individual often denies there is even a problem and avoids any talk of treatment whatsoever.

If you are feeling concerned about your relationship with food or exercise, it can only help you to seek out a professional opinion and begin engaging the support that you need.


[1] Unknown (2019). Warning signs and symptoms. National Eating Disorders Association, retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms

[2] Unknown (2019). Health consequences. National Eating Disorders Association, retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences

[3] Mischoulon, D. et al. (2011). Depression and eating disorders: treatment and course. Journal of Affective Disorders, 130:3.

About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.

Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published October 9, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on October 9, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.