How To Know You Have An Eating Disorder

According To The Mayo Clinic Common Binge Eating Disorder Signs Include:

How do I tell if I have an eating disorder?
  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Eating even when youre full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until youre uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone or in secret
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

Individuals with eating disorders are experts in hiding their behavior. Its important to note that this is a mental health diagnosis that deserves serious attention.

You Drink More To Fill Your Stomach With Liquid

Its typical for people with eating disorders to consume lots of low-calorie drinks in order to fill their stomachs so they dont eat and feel less hungry. They might even replace an entire meal with a drink. Do you drink more coffee, water, tea or any other drink so you will eat less? Then, you might be at risk for disordered eating or developing an eating disorder.

You Avoid Social Activities That Involve Food

People with eating disorders often have very rigid and strict rules regarding when, where and how much they can or cant eat. As a result, eating out in front of other people can be extremely anxiety-provoking because it comprises the ability to control exactly what one can eat. How is the food prepared? Just ow much butter did they use? And how many calories are in the dish? If you are facing serious stress and worry over social activities that involve eating, dont hesitate to reach out to a licensed professional.

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Types Of Eating Disorders

Five primary types of eating disorders can be diagnosed by a mental health professional:

  • Anorexia nervosa: Typically characterized by weight loss, difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight, and an intense fear of weight gain
  • Bulimia nervosa: Characterized by the cycle of binging and compensatory behaviors, such as vomiting, use of laxatives, or extreme exercise to compensate for the food eaten during the binge
  • Binge eating disorder: Characterized by repeatedly eating large quantities of food quickly to the point of discomfort while feeling a loss of control, followed by guilt and shame
  • Other specified feeding and eating disorder: Characterized by eating disorder symptoms, but does not meet strict criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa diagnosis
  • Unspecified feeding or eating disorder: Characterized by symptoms of a feeding and eating disorder that causes significant distress or impairment in life, but does not meet the full criteria for any eating disorder diagnosis

Eating disorders negatively impact your physical, mental, and emotional health. These devastating diseases can impact all of your organ systems, including your cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, and neurological systems.

Mentally and emotionally, you may be completely preoccupied with thoughts about food and your body, which can impact your ability to function regularly, such as doing your job, going to school, or socializing.

What Are The Early Signs Of An Eating Disorder

How Do I Find Out If I Have Eating Disorder?

A change in eating habits

One of the earliest signs of an eating disorder is a change in a persons eating habits.

  • You may notice that their eating habits become more regimented. For example, they may only eat at certain times of the day, only use certain plates and cutlery, and may insist on eating food in a certain order
  • They may start moving their food around their plate a lot, or chopping it up into tiny pieces or certain shapes before they eat it
  • You may notice they use a lot more condiments or seasoning on their food than they usually would
  • They may appear to be fidgety and anxious during mealtimes
  • You may find that they want to eat the same foods over and over again
  • They may suddenly decide to embark on a new diet e.g. becoming vegetarian or going gluten-free

Becoming very interested in food

Another early sign of an eating disorder is suddenly becoming very interested in food. You may notice that the person has an in-depth knowledge of nutrition and the calorie content of certain foods, which seems to have come from nowhere. They may also start downloading and reading recipes or watching cookery programmes on TV, despite never having had an interest in those sorts of things previously.

Social withdrawal

Changes in mood, especially linked to eating

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You’re Increasingly Making Concerning Comments About Weight Body Image And Eating And Not Just Your Own

“An individual’s language is an early indicator of the development of an eating disorder,” Dr. Hampton told INSIDER. “Comments generally include things like being fat even when the individual is average size or skinny, weighing multiple times a day and making disparaging comments about the number on the scale, or even commenting about others’ weight as an attempt to deflect attention from what is going on with them.”

Still, keeping the focus inward is what occurs most often, explained Dr. Bakshi. She says, “Oftentimes, someone will be much more self-deprecating about their own weight or body image rather than comment on anyone else. They may comment on certain parts of their body that they want to change or a weight that they want to reach. They may also talk about changing their diet to be more restrictive or eliminating certain foods or food groups.”

Preoccupation With Food Nutritional Information And Diet Culture

As eating disorders take hold, patients become more and more obsessed with food and nutrition. They might watch cooking shows, read cookbooks, and compulsively read nutritional information on packaged food. People with eating disorders are known to cook elaborate meals for friends and family, while eating scant little themselves.

At the same time, people with eating disorders are driven to lose weight. They might look at diet advertisements, weight-loss programs, and even eating disorder internet forums.

This all leads to a lifestyle of being surrounded by food. But, the person with the eating disorder is not allowed to eat it. The preoccupation with food is likely a symptom of both mental illness, and of starvation.

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Mood And Energy Shifts

Irregular shifts in mood and energy can also be a sign of an eating disorder. Eating disorders often co-occur with other forms of mental illness including anxiety and depression. Additionally, because many people with eating disorders are undernourished or malnourished, they may experience dramatic shifts in mood, changing energy levels, and other cognitive challenges, like difficulty focusing.

People with eating disorders often have low self-esteem and a poor body image. They might wear baggy clothing to avoid the shame they feel about their bodies. They may also try to isolate themselves and avoid spending time with friends and family members. Their energy levels tend to go toward extremes. Either they will seem lethargic and down or they will overcompensate with extra energy, acting capable of anything.

Where Do I Start

Signs of an Eating Disorder

You’ve decided it’s time to seek help and we’re so glad you did. NEDA is here to support you on your journey. These resources can help you take the first step to getting the help you deserve.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of an eating disorder?

The chance for recovery increases the earlier an eating disorder is detected. Therefore, it is important to be aware of some of the warning signs of an eating disorder.

How do I know if its time to get help?

Our online eating disorders screening assesses warning signs of an eating disorder and help you determine if it’s time to seek professional help. But please note, this screening is not a replacement for clinical evaluation.

How do I open up about my issues?

If you are able to recognize disordered eating attitudes and behaviors in yourself, you have already taken the first step toward a happy, healthy, balanced way of life. The second steptelling a trusted friend, family member, or professional counselor/nutritionistis equally as important.

Whats the first step to treatment?

Early detection, initial evaluation, and effective treatment are important steps that can help an eating disorder sufferer move into recovery more quickly, preventing the disorder from progressing to a more severe or chronic state.

What can I expect from eating disorders treatment?

Many people wonder what will happen at their first visit, and what to expect from the overall treatment process.

How do I find treatment?

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Check If You Have An Eating Disorder

If you or people around you are worried that you have an unhealthy relationship with food, you could have an eating disorder.

Symptoms of eating disorders include:

  • spending a lot of time worrying about your weight and body shape
  • avoiding socialising when you think food will be involved
  • eating very little food
  • making yourself sick or taking laxatives after you eat
  • exercising too much
  • having very strict habits or routines around food
  • changes in your mood such as being withdrawn, anxious or depressed

You may also notice physical signs, including:

  • feeling cold, tired or dizzy
  • pains, tingling or numbness in your arms and legs
  • feeling your heart racing, fainting or feeling faint
  • problems with your digestion, such as bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
  • your weight being very high or very low for someone of your age and height
  • not getting your period or other delayed signs of puberty

You can read more about the symptoms of:

You Eat Too Much At Once

Are you regularly eating too much food and feel a lack of control over your eating? Do you eat more quickly, even when you are not hungry? If so, this could be a binge. After a binge, someone may feel guilty, ashamed and disgusted by the amount of food eaten, but as opposed to anorexia and bulimia nervosa, they dont try to compensate their food intake with purging or excessive exercise. If you have binge at least once a week, you might be at risk for developing an eating disorder.

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Common Signs That You Might Have An Eating Disorder

All the eating disorders mentioned above can present differently. For the most part, though, there are some common signs that could indicate that you may have an eating disorder.

  • You struggle to eat in front of others. It can be difficult to have a meal in social settings if youre struggling with an eating disorder. Many people feel the need to hide the food theyre eating around friends or avoid it altogether.
  • You develop rigid rules around eating. Theres a difference between a casual routine and a strict rule. If youre eliminating entire food groups, limiting intake, or generally being inflexible about what youll eat and where, that could be the sign of an eating disorder.
  • Youre exercising a lot. If you have an eating disorder, exercise can be much more than a way to stay healthy. Pay attention to whether youre obsessing over calorie tracking or working out too hard to compensate for overeating.
  • Physical symptoms are catching up with you. A lack of sufficient nutrition can damage your gastrointestinal system. Some people who have an eating disorder frequently struggle with cramps, reflux, or constipation. Dizziness, dehydration, and blood pressure fluctuations are other signs to look for.
  • Youre feeling a lot of guilt or shame. Low self-esteem is a common symptom of eating disorders. So too are guilt and shame over an inability to control your eating habits to your level of satisfaction.


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Hoarding And Stashing Food

Eating disorders: know the signs

Eating disorders can cause people to hide or stash food. In some cases, individuals may hoard select safe foods or beverages. They may feel the need to stockpile it, keep it separate or even hide it, so that other family members cant eat it. For others, the hidden food in question may be triggering to the person, and they may view it as forbidden.

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Can Animals Have An Eating Disorder

Yes, animals can have eating disorders. Just like humans, they can suffer from anorexia, bulimia, and other types of disordered eating. There are many reasons why an animal might develop an eating disorder.

Sometimes its due to a medical condition or a reaction to the medication. Other times, it might be the result of stress or anxiety. And in some cases, there may be no clear reason at all.

Whatever the cause, an animal with an eating disorder will typically display some telltale signs. For example, they may become obsessed with food or start hoarding their food. They may also lose interest in activities that used to bring them joy and begin to isolate themselves from others. If you suspect your animal is suffering from an eating disorder, its important to seek professional help right away. A qualified veterinarian or animal behaviorist can create a treatment plan thats tailored to your pets needs and help them get back on the road to recovery.

Emotional And Behavioral Signs And Symptoms May Include:

  • Preoccupation with food, which sometimes includes cooking elaborate meals for others but not eating them
  • Frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat
  • Denial of hunger or making excuses for not eating
  • Eating only a few certain safe foods, usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as spitting food out after chewing
  • Not wanting to eat in public
  • Lying about how much food has been eaten
  • Fear of gaining weight that may include repeated weighing or measuring the body
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Complaining about being fat or having parts of the body that are fat
  • Covering up in layers of clothing
  • Social withdrawal

Image by Riley Reed

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Changes In Mood Or Behavior Related To Food

Eating disorders can also cause changes in mood or behavior related to food. This could mean feeling angry, anxious, or depressed when thinking about food, or feeling guilty or ashamed after eating. These feelings can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with food, and can have serious physical and mental health consequences.

If you find yourself feeling angry, anxious, or depressed when thinking about food, or feeling guilty or ashamed after eating, it could be a sign of an eating disorder. Its important to recognize these feelings and take steps to address them by seeking help from a mental health professional.

How To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder

Five signs your child may have an eating disorder

If you think someone in your life has an eating disorder, your best bet is to support and encourage them to seek help from a healthcare professional.

This can be extremely difficult for someone living with an eating disorder, but supporting them in other ways will help them feel cared for and encouraged in their recovery.

Recovering from an eating disorder can take a long time, and this person may have periods of relapsing into old behaviors, especially during times of stress. If youre close to this person, its important to be there for them, and be patient, throughout their recovery .

Ways to support someone with an eating disorder include :

  • Listening to them. Taking time to listen to their thoughts can help them feel heard, respected, and supported. Even if you dont agree with what they say, its important that they know youre there for them and that they have someone to confide in.
  • Including them in activities. You can reach out and invite them to activities and social events or ask if they want to hang out one-on-one. Even if they do not want to be social, its important to check in and invite them to help them feel valued and less alone.
  • Trying to build their self-esteem. Make sure they know that they are valued and appreciated, especially for nonphysical reasons. Remind them why you are their friend and why they are valued.

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You’re Experimenting With Diet Pills Medications Laxatives Or Weight Loss Supplements

If you’re not simply researching new ways to lose weight but actually trying them, you might be delving into disordered patterns.

As Dr. Hampton points out, “While this is typically an advanced technique that is indicative of an active eating disorder, one may be experimenting with diet pills or laxatives to attempt initial weight loss at the beginning.”

Breaking Down Eating Disorder Myths

Its true that more women suffer from eating disorders than men. But men, athletes, and the transgender, gay, and BIPOC community are often vastly overlooked and underdiganosed. Binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia nervosa are the three most common forms of eating disorders, but there are many gray areas between and within each of these diagnoses.

The path to disordered eating and eating disorder signs looks different and varies widely for everyone. Because of this, it can make the disorder hard to diagnose. As a result, it can be common for eating disorders to be vastly underreported or even screened for in healthcare settings.

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What Treatment Options Are There

Since anorexia causes such serious medical concerns, its not at all unusual for people to start their recovery journey with a trip to the hospital. According to Mayo Clinic, people with anorexia might need help with heart rhythm problems, dehydration issues, electrolyte imbalances, or psychiatric disturbances. A hospital is a great place to get this help, as there are medical professionals on hand who can deliver lifesaving medications and therapies to people in desperate need.

Some people with anorexia need to stay in the hospital for a few weeks, until their bodies return to a more standardized level of functioning. They might need around-the-clock heart monitoring, forced nutrition, or other medical therapies just to keep the body up and running.

But these medical treatments dont assist with the distorted thinking that stands behind anorexia behaviors. While doctors may be able to manipulate the body into a more standardized level of function, an outside treatment cant help people with anorexia to think about their bodies in a different way. They need help that comes from within, and there are two ways to tackle that demand.

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