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eating disorder signs Archives - Suzanne Wallach

What Are The Signs Of An Eating Disorder?

eating disorder

Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions that are broadly characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. They are defined as “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behavior.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes different types of eating disorders, all of which are categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. Each type of eating disorder is associated with different signs and symptoms, as indicated below: 

  • Anorexia nervosa: is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss and/ or lack of appropriate wait gain in growing children, an inability to maintain an appropriate body weight for one’s age, height, stature, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body image (weight and/ or shape). People struggling with anorexia will employ extreme efforts to control their weight and/ or shape, which can significantly interfere with their ability to properly function in daily life. The Mayo Clinic provides examples of common signs of anorexia, some of which include: 
    • Thin appearance
    • Insomnia
    • Extreme weight loss
    • Not making expected developmental weight gains
  • Dizziness and/ or fainting
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning, brittle hair
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Dry and/ or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Excessively exercising
  • Bulimia nervosa: is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of overeating (bingeing) and compensatory behaviors (purging) in attempts to undo the effects of the binge eating episodes. Purging could include self-induced vomiting, excessively over exercising, and/ or abusing diuretics. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) provides examples of common signs of bulimia, some of which include:
    • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
    • Fear of eating in public or with others
    • Shows unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
    • Discolored, stained teeth
    • Has calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
    • Diets frequently
    • Shows extreme concern with body weight and shape
    • Extreme mood swings
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Dizziness
    • Fainting
    • Non-specific gastrointestinal complaints
    • Sleeping problems
    • Muscle weakness
    • Impaired immune system
  • Binge-eating disorder (BED): is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsively eating abnormally large quantities of food (often quickly) to the point of physical discomfort, without engaging in compensatory behaviors. Often binge episodes are followed by emotions of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and/ or distress. The Office on Women’s Health (OASH) provides examples of common signs of binge-eating disorder, some of which include:
    • Noticeable weight fluctuations
    • Depression
    • Eating in secret
    • Anxiety
    • Low self-esteem/ low self-worth
    • Skipping meals
    • Hiding food in unusual places
    • Eating excessive amounts of food in a short period of time
    • Continuing to eat, even when painfully full 
    • Inability to feel satiated
    • Suicidal ideation
  • Rumination syndrome: is a feeding and eating disorder characterized by repeatedly and unintentionally regurgitating (spitting up) undigested or partially digested food from the stomach, chewing it again and either swallowing it or spitting it out. The Mayo Clinic provides examples of common signs of rumination syndrome, some of which include:
    • Effortless regurgitation, typically within 10 minutes of eating
    • Abdominal pain or pressure relieved by regurgitation
    • A feeling of fullness
    • Bad breath
    • Nausea
    • Unintentional weight loss
  • Avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID): is an eating disorder characterized by restricting food intake (e.g., eating smaller amounts) and/ or eliminating certain groups to the point of infringing on one’s exposure to and ability to absorb needed nutrients coming from food. The National Eating Disorders Association provides examples of common signs of AFRID, some of which include:
    • Sudden refusal to eat foods previously eaten
    • Fear of choking, vomiting, pain or nausea due to certain foods or the act of eating
    • Lack of appetite or low appetite without medical cause
    • Very slow eating, easily distracted during eating or forgetting to eat

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.