Eating disorders are serious illnesses and can be extremely worrying both for the person experiencing the eating disorder and for those close to them. As a rule, the earlier an eating disorder is noticed and diagnosed, the better the chances of recovery. With this in mind, it’s vital that people know some of the common signs to look out for.
Eating disorders are notoriously complex and symptoms vary from person to person. One person may have just one noticeable symptom while another has five or more, but both people might be suffering to an equal degree. If you suspect that you or someone you know has an eating disorder, always approach a physician, a mental health professional or an eating disorder specialist for advice.
Read on for some of the common signs of eating disorders to look out for.
Emotional and behavioral symptoms
- Behaviors that suggest a preoccupation with dieting, weight loss, and control of food
- An obsessive interest in food, weight, food, dieting or calories
- Rejection of certain foods, then going on to extend to entire food groups or types.
- Noticeable discomfort eating in the presence of other people
- Food-based habits or rituals, for example not allowing two foods to touch one another
- Only allowing small portions for meals, or skipping meals all together
- New fad diets
- Withdrawal from social meets and activities
- Preoccupation with body shape and size
- Severe mood swings
- Visible variations in weight, both down and up
- Stomach pains, cramps and other gastrointestinal issues
- Missing periods
- Trouble with concentration
- Abnormal blood counts and other blood-related conclusions, such as low potassium or low red and white blood cell counts
- Faintness and low blood pressure
- Frequently feeling cold
- Sleep irregularities
- Discolored teeth or other dental issues
- Dry hair and skin
- Brittle nails
- Layer of fine hair all over body
- Poor immunity to common colds and viruses
These symptoms can vary depending on which eating disorder the person is suffering with. Often, though, a person may experience symptoms and behaviours from two or more different disorders. There is much overlap between them. Below are two of the more common eating disorders and their specific symptoms.
- Drastic weight loss
- Wearing extra clothing, either to disguise the weight loss, or to keep warm
- Obsession with food, weight, calories and dieting. Comments often about being ‘fat’
- Sustains an extreme, strict exercise routine
- Signs of binge eating, such as food going missing or large numbers of empty containers or wrappers. Often, they will hide this type of evidence
- Evidence of vomiting, such as going to the bathroom after eating, signs of vomiting
- Packets from diuretics or laxatives
- Drinking a lot of water or using large amounts of mints and mouthwash
- Dental issues such as cavities, discoloration and missing enamel
Eating disorders are serious and usually need specialist treatment. Anorexia and bulimia are two of the more common disorders, but there are many others. If you have worries either about you or someone close to you, seek advice from an eating disorder specialist or treatment program such as Bulimia Treatment LA.