Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

If you are concerned that you or a loved one suffers from an eating disorder, you are not alone. Over eight million adults in the U.S. struggle with eating disorders each year, but only one in ten adults who suffer from an eating disorder ever receive treatment. Of all diagnosable mental health issues, eating disorders are the most deadly. That’s right—eating disorders cause death more often than schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and even depression.

Individuals with eating disorders have a hard battle ahead. First, there are the issues related to the eating disorder itself. Second, there are many misconceptions about individuals with eating disorders; some people claim that eating disorders only happen to vain people (not true) or that it only happens to middle or upper class women (definitely not true). Third, eating disorders are notoriously hard to treat because many people do not obtain proper treatment or don’t see the disorder as a problem. Finally, individuals with eating disorders can be very good at hiding the disorder both from their loved ones and from themselves.

Take a look at these symptoms and assess your situation. If there is any suspicion in your mind that you are dealing with an eating disorder situation, whether it is anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating/binge eating disorder, read on and we will provide you with helpful information about treatment.

Please keep in mind that these symptoms are not complete and do not apply to every case. Also remember that many of these symptoms may also apply to individuals with health conditions, certain cancers and digestive disease.

Symptoms of Anorexia

  • Thin, unhealthy appearance
  • Pale, wane skin tone and pale, thin fingernails
  • Denying hunger or refusing to eat regularly
  • Self-hatred and self directed anger
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Plays with food, prepares food but does not eat it
  • Fainting, dizzy spells
  • Social withdrawal, isolating self or befriending only similarly thin, unhealthy appearing friends
  • Frequenting diet websites and message boards (Search the person’s computer for terms like “Pro-ana” or “Pro-anorexia” sites)
  • Excessive exercise
  • History of perfectionism or need of control, OR a history of experiencing a lack of control, i.e., moving homes frequently, abuse, trauma or illness
  • Lack of emotions, flat mood, or overly excessive emotions
  • Lanugo, or soft downy hair on the body
  • Constipation and dry skin or other signs of dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Amenorrhea, or missing periods in women
  • Frequently being cold
  • Low blood pressure or irregular heartbeat
  • Family or friends with eating disorders
  • Dehydration

Symptoms of Bulimia

  • Disappearing after meals
  • Eating until feeling pain, discomfort or a distended stomach
  • Self-induced vomiting or frequent use of diuretics or laxatives
  • Exercising for hours on end
  • Damaged gums and teeth with tooth decay particularly in the back of the mouth
  • Feeling out of control, or needing to have control over people and situations
  • Sores or calluses on knuckles or hands (not always present)
  • Swollen cheeks, sore throat
  • Tends to binge on fattening or high sugar foods
  • Constantly trying to diet
  • Digestive issues, constipation or diarrhea
  • Amenorrhea, or lack of menstrual cycles in women
  • Dehydration, low blood pressure, or irregular heartbeat
  • Constant focus and attention to body weight
  • Self-hatred or anger at self
  • Sometimes, abuse of drugs, particularly stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin

Symptoms of Compulsive Overeating/Binge Eating Disorder

  • Eating until feelings of discomfort or pain set in or until the stomach appears distended
  • Feeling unable to control eating, feeling helpless about the eating
  • Considerable distress over binge eating
  • Eating more quickly during a binge
  • Feelings of sadness, depression, guilt or self-hatred
  • Eating alone out of embarrassment or social isolation
  • Often, excessive concern about body shape and size is present
  • The purging found in bulimia is often not present
  • Not every meal has to be a binge meal in order to be considered Binge Eating Disorder
  • Possible weight fluctuations often followed by plans for strict dieting that often fall through and make the binge eating cycle worse.
  • Often, the individual will suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes over time

Eating Disorder Treatment Help

While many individuals leave their eating disorders untreated, this can lead to a miserable life and dangerously poor health. If you or your loved one suffers from an eating disorder, it’s time to make a change and live your life free from food turmoil. We offer a toll free 24-hour helpline staffed by trained counselors to help you learn more about your treatment options. Don’t hesitate—call today.