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The Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

Since each individual experiences an eating disorder differently, eating disorder symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms also vary depending on the type of eating disorder. While some eating disorder symptoms are noticeable, eating disorders are inherently secretive mental illnesses. This can make the detection of symptoms quite difficult.

Physical Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

You cannot always tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them. However, there are some physical warning signs of eating disorders, including:

  • Dramatic or rapid weight loss
  • Compulsive or excessive exercise
  • Visiting the bathroom immediately after each meal
  • Loss of menses
  • Frequent stomach cramps or stomach pain
  • Food wrappers in odd places or food disappearing from the house (caused by bingeing)
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles (caused by self-induced vomiting)

Emotional Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders typically involve extreme emotions and attitudes about food and weight. People with eating disorders tend to suffer from distressing mental health symptoms including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and substance abuse. The following emotional warning signs can indicate the presence of an eating disorder:

  • Behavior changes (acting differently)
  • Isolation and withdrawing from others
  • Being less interested in daily activities
  • An increase in mood swings, irritability or high anxiety
  • Plummeting grades
  • Low self-esteem
  • Emotional numbness or lack of emotion

Warning Signs of Specific Eating Disorders

Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder are some of the most common, well-known eating disorders. We review signs and symptoms of these eating disorders below.

Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

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. People with anorexia use extreme measures to control their weight, such as excessively restricting calories, over-exercising, and laxative or diet aid abuse.

While the majority of patients with anorexia are severely underweight, normal or overweight patients can also be anorexic. These patients will present abnormal medical and lab test results that show signs and symptoms of malnourishment.

Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

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, as this is a red flag. It’s also important to realize that those with bulimia don’t always show outward physical signs of an eating disorder – they can be of average and larger weight and size.

Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

People with binge eating disorder (BED) 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. They may feel guilty, disgusted or ashamed by their behavior and the amount of food eaten. Many times, they overeat in private. New bouts of bingeing usually occur at least once a week. Sufferers can be normal weight, overweight or obese.

How Do You Know if You Have an Eating Disorder?

If you are interested in a quick self-evaluation for eating disorders, consider taking our brief eating disorder test. Should someone you care about be exhibiting any of the eating disorder symptoms listed above, help them find the care they need.

Get Help for Eating Disorder Symptoms

If you or a loved one are experiencing any concerning signs or symptoms of an eating disorder, the next step is to speak with an experienced clinical or healthcare professional about treatment. Please call us at 877-825-8584 to schedule a free confidential consultation with an Eating Recovery Center Masters-level clinician.

Eating Recovery Center is accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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