Eating disorders – such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder – include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Specific warning signs and symptoms can vary, depending on the type of eating disorder. Eating disorders are also inherently secretive mental illnesses, which can make detection difficult.
Anorexia is a potentially life-threatening illness characterized by the following eating disorder symptoms and signs: an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape. Anorexia sufferers use extreme measures to control their weight, such as excessively restricting calories, over-exercising, and laxative or diet aids abuse.
While the majority of anorexia patients are severely underweight, normal or overweight patients can be anorexic. These patients will present abnormal medical and lab test results that show signs and symptoms of malnourishment.
Bulimia is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. It is typically characterized by episodes of bingeing on large portions of food and then voiding the food through purging, excessive exercise or the use of diet pills or laxatives. Many people with bulimia also restrict their eating during the day, which often leads to more binge eating and purging.
Many times, someone who is in the grips of bulimia will disappear to the bathroom immediately after a meal – be aware of this is a red flag. It’s also important to realize that bulimia sufferers don’t always show outward physical signs of an eating disorder – they can be of normal weight and size.
Binge eating disorder (BED) sufferers regularly eat too much food (binge) and feel a lack of control over their eating. Typically they eat quickly or eat more food than intended, even when not hungry, or they may continue eating even long after they’re uncomfortably full.
BED patients may feel guilty, disgusted or ashamed by their behavior and the amount of food eaten and many times overeat in private. New bouts of bingeing usually occur at least once a week. Sufferers can be a normal weight, overweight or obese.
Other eating disorders
While these are the most common eating disorders, there are other serious eating disorders that can benefit from treatment.
If you or a loved one are experiencing signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, the next step is to speak with an experienced clinical or healthcare professional. Please call us at 877-825-8584 to schedule a free confidential consultation with an Eating Recovery Center Masters-level clinician.