As a medical provider, you may be the first person to recognize that a patient has an eating disorder. That’s because eating disorder behaviors often occur in secret, and those struggling are typically very good at keeping their eating disorder a secret from the people in their lives.
Eating disorders are often apparent in a medical setting because we check weight, assess vital signs, and spend time discussing physical symptoms with patients. Signs of eating disorders that could be recognized even in a routine check-up may include dramatic changes in weight, menstrual irregularity, dizziness, dry skin, leg cramps, hair loss, and bruising. If you’re lucky, your patient may view an appointment as a natural time to share that they are experiencing eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. However, many patients are not forthcoming and the medical system is very poorly designed to talk to people about food and body issues.
Usually, the first thing that happens when a patient walks into a provider’s office is that they are asked to step on the scale. Patients are usually told their weight or it is written on a piece of paper. After that, patients are taken into an office and asked several questions about medications, habits and health concerns. The patient may see one or two providers before seeing their primary medical provider.