Warning Signs and Symptoms Of An Eating Disorder


Symptoms of Eating Disorders


The earlier you can spot an eating disorder, the earlier you can pursue treatment that can help restore your physical, mental and emotional health. That’s just one of the many reasons why it’s important to be on the lookout for signs of eating disorders. There are different types of disorders and they can present themselves in different ways. This is an overview of some of the most common signs of eating disorders, and how they might look in people struggling with these diseases. These warning signs can give you a sense of the kinds of behaviors to watch for, and why they might mean that your loved one is having a problem.


Signs of an Eating Disorder


There are some major differences between different types of eating disorders—for instance, people with bulimia will overeat compulsively, while those with anorexia won’t eat much at all. But there are some more general signs of an eating disorder that can alert you to a potential problem. If you notice some of the following signs, you could be seeing signals of an eating disorder.


A drastic change in eating habits


Look for signs of abnormal eating behaviors, but remember to keep in mind the individual. Avoiding red meat isn’t unusual for a vegetarian, but it may be unusual for someone who loves beef to develop an aversion to it out of nowhere. Other changes can include skipping meals, restricting food intake or not eating when others are around to observe their eating patterns.


Poor body image


Body image is essentially defined as how you think others see you. You may not even be overweight, but if you have a bad body image, you worry that other people think you are “fat.” This can trigger waves of self-doubt in your appearance, and you may become fixated on “changing” your body by losing weight. You may also spend much more time than usual in front of the mirror looking for perceived flaws.


Wearing baggy clothes


Exchanging form-fitting attire for loose pants and baggy T-shirts isn’t a fashion statement. Baggy clothes can help hide weight gains or losses caused by eating disorders.


Compulsive exercise


Couch potatoes who suddenly start running 5 miles a day? This extreme workout regimen can be a sign that someone is overcompensating for an eating disorder, such as bulimia, where large amounts of food are consumed.


Experiencing mood swings


Eating disorders can co-occur with emotional and mental issues such as depression, anxiety, irritability and anger. 




Feelings of guilt over an eating disorder, poor body image, a co-occurring mental health disorder or past trauma may lead someone to want to harm themselves with behaviors such as cutting.


Increased use of substances meant to induce weight loss. 


These can include laxatives, diet pills and diuretics.


Physical changes


Eating disorders can take a toll on the body, including hair loss, dry skin, feeling cold and a loss of energy.


Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms


Binge eating disorder, also called compulsive overeating, is another common eating disorder. People with this problem regularly binge uncontrollably until they feel sick. Compounding the problem is that the binge foods are often what the person considers “unhealthy:” processed snacks, fast food or sugary treats. The rush of binge eating doesn’t last long, however, as binging is usually followed by strong emotions such as shame and depression. What doesn’t follow, as it does with bulimia, is purging. 


Binge eating is sometimes tied to emotional problems or challenging situations. While there is no specific trigger that can be tied to binge eating, it can be influenced by a sense that some areas of life are spinning out of control. If you see a friend or loved one who regularly “stress eats” to the point of feeling sick, for example, they might have binge eating disorder. People who eat to cope with problems are also showing you a warning sign.


Binge eating disorder symptoms include:


  1. Eating large amounts of food at one time.

  2. Feeling out of control when eating.

  3. Consuming food rapidly, or beyond the point when you feel full.

  4. Weight gain, or dieting without weight loss.

  5. Feeling disgusted, guilty or anxious after eating.

  6. Eating alone most of the time

  7. Depression that co-occurs with binging.


Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia


Anorexia nervosa, also simply called anorexia, is one of the most well-known eating disorders. This is partly because, in extreme cases, it’s easy to see its effects:  dull skin and hair; low body weight, to the point where a person’s bones seems to stick out from their frame and dental issues caused by eroded tooth enamel. Anorexia also causes problems that aren’t as readily noticeable; chronic cases of this eating disorder can lead to organ damage, and even organ failure. 


Similarly, the triggers for anorexia may seem both superficial and complex. On the surface, people with anorexia seem to be focused on losing weight in order to achieve a desired level of thinness. But underneath that, an issue that drives many anorexics is one of control. They feel that taming the impulse to eat is a display of control over their body. If someone’s life seems to be unraveling in certain areas, it can be tempting for them to exert that control they feel they lack, and the place they do that is in their eating habits. 


There are several signs and symptoms of anorexia:


  1. Skipping meals or refusing to eat.

  2. Lying about hunger pangs.

  3. Obsessive worry about gaining weight.

  4. A negative body image.

  5. Excessive exercise.

  6. Withdrawing from social activities.

  7. Lack of emotion or “flat” moods.

  8. A preoccupation with food, ingredients or nutritional information.

  9. Dizziness and possible fainting.

  10. Changes to the menstrual cycle.

  11. Constipation.

  12. Dry skin or dehydration.

  13. Stomach pain.

  14. Feeling cold no matter the weather.

  15. Low blood pressure or irregular heartbeat.


If you have noticed any of the symptoms of eating disorders in your life, or the life of someone you love, today is the day to get help. (And if you are unsure if you have an eating disorder, take our self-assessment that you can fill out to see where you stand.) The professional team members at Casa Palmera are exceptionally skilled at treating a variety of eating disorders with knowledge and compassion. To learn more about our comprehensive and individualized treatment plans for eating disorders, contact us today.