AMITA Health: Recognizing Eating Disorder Warning Signs Can Save Lives

"I Can't Believe That This is My Life"

HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL--(Marketwired - Feb 18, 2016) -


  • Eating Awareness week is Feb. 21-27.
  • Eating Disorders affect approximately 30 million Americans and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.1
  • Eating Disorders often go undetected, but knowing the warning signs can help start the road to recovery.
  • AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Hospital will host a panel of experts to discuss eating disorders on Monday, Feb. 22 in Hoffman Estates, IL.

"I can't believe that this is my life." Those words rang through Carrie's mind over and over again as she lay on her parents' cold bathroom floor. This was the moment Carrie realized that her eating disorder was destroying her life. "It was all I knew and it got to the point where it was all I had. I hit rock bottom. My eating disorder, my life, my thought patterns were out of control," Carrie recalled. "I knew I either had to get help or I was going to continue this slow suicide path that I was on."

Carrie and her parents reached out to AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Hospital in Hoffman Estates, IL. After intense treatment at the AMITA Heath Center for Eating Disorders, where they treated more than 200 patients last year in outpatient programs, Carrie conquered her battle with eating. But it wasn't easy.

"The road to recovery from an eating disorder is a long and arduous path that is often frustrating and misunderstood," explains Denise Styer, Psy.D., Clinical Director at AMITA Health Center for Eating Disorders. "It does not make sense to the general public. Why would someone purposely not allow themselves to eat the necessary amount of nutrients to fuel their mind/body, or consistently overeat more than what their body needs, or even eat but then purposely rid their body of these nutrients?"

According to Dr. Styer, the reasons are vast. The underlying themes often consist of "feeling the only thing controllable is what they put in their body," "punishment for not obtaining a goal or meeting an expectation," "self-loathing for their body," and "if my body is childlike, maybe I don't have to grow up."

"Recovery from an eating disorder is a tricky thing, " Carrie shares. "The alcoholic can remove alcohol completely from their lives. Same goes for the drug addict. Someone with an eating disorder cannot eliminate food, so the temptation is always there."

Carrie is not alone. Up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S., according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).1 In fact more than half of teenage girls and nearly a third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives. Additionally, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.1 One recent study found that individuals diagnosed with anorexia nervosa were five times more likely to die early than those in the non-eating disorder population.2

For many who struggle, an eating disorder can go undetected. School age children with eating disorders may have stellar grades and excel in athletics and extracurricular activities. Adults with eating disorders may have successful careers and present as put together. But there are warning signs. Here are a few indicators that someone has an eating disorder:

Eating Disorder Warning Signs

  • Skip meals, limit calories, or cut out certain food groups
  • Spend a lot of time thinking about food or behaviors to control what's going on in life
  • Spend time thinking about, dealing with, or avoiding food rather than hanging out with friends
  • Have relationship with food and/or body that impacts ability to manage work, school, or relationships
  • Binge eat or emotionally eat
  • Use diuretics, laxatives, diet pills, or vomit in order to lose weight
  • Consider yourself overweight even though you are underweight
  • Have thoughts that revolve around food and body image or behaviors associated with food and weight
  • Sacrifice time with friends and family to exercise

"Consultation with a professional trained in eating disorders is a must in starting the road to recovery," says Dr. Styer. "It is so important to be involved in treatment by attending family groups, eating disorder support groups, and if you are the support person -- finding your own therapist so you have that designated person who can support you while you support your loved one."

Eating Disorders Awareness Week this year is Feb. 21 - 27. If you, or someone you care about, struggles with an eating disorder, please join Dr. Styer on Monday, Feb. 22 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Hospital, 1650 Moon Lake Boulevard, Hoffman Estates, IL in the gymnasium. A panel of experts will address the recovery of an eating disorder and answer questions.

About AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates, IL
The eighth largest behavioral health provider in the nation, AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital offers comprehensive behavioral health services from prevention and early intervention to treatment and aftercare. Located northwest of Chicago, AMITA Health Behavioral Health Hospital offers both inpatient and outpatient services with a mission to help individuals of all ages learn practical ways to manage mental health and substance abuse problems. Highly sub-specialized programs and services include treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, eating disorders, and self-injury. For more information, please visit or call 855.383.2224.


1. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
2. International Journal of Eating Disorders, January 2016

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Contact Information:

Contact Us

Don Mitckess, LCPC, CRADC
Clinical Liaison, Centers for
Eating Disorder & Self-Injury,
AMITA Health
Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates

Denise M. Styer, Psy.D.
Clinical Director,
AMITA Health Center for
Eating Disorders

Clinical Intake Advisors are available 24/7 at 855.383.2224