Signs & Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can be difficult to identify. If you’re concerned you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, this page outlines the warning signs and symptoms of this disorder.

Recognizing Eating Disorder Symptoms

Common eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia, are characterized by a variety of eating disorder symptoms including both abnormal eating behaviors and unhealthy thought patterns. If you feel that you may be suffering from eating disorder symptoms is it important that you receive eating disorder treatment as soon as possible. McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers in St. Louis and Kansas City offer evidence-based treatment for eating disorders and can create the treatment program to help you overcome your eating disorder. We have treated patients from across the country and the world, and our eating disorder treatment professionals are prepared to offer the help that you need. Contact us today for a free, confidential assessment.

Common Signs of Eating Disorders in a Loved One

Determining if a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder, is not always easy, especially since during the early stages of an eating disorder, behaviors can seem similar to dieting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, when looking closely, eating disorders are typically characterized by certain abnormal behaviors and thoughts that can be recognized fairly easily. Therefore, the following is a list of five main signs of eating disorders that you should watch for if you suspect that a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder. If you determine that a friend or family member is showing signs of an eating disorder, it is important to encourage them to seek eating disorder treatment as soon as possible since medical complications of eating disorders can be serious and potentially life threatening.

Drastic Changes in Eating Habits and Behaviors

As a person develops an eating disorder, they will begin to develop abnormal eating habits and behaviors. Therefore, drastic and sometimes sudden changes in eating habits and behaviors can be one of the initial signs of eating disorders. For example, if someone suddenly has aversions to foods that they once loved, it can be a warning sign of an eating disorder. This is especially true for foods that are high in fat, calories, or are otherwise ‘unhealthy.’ Additionally, people who suffer from eating disorders will avoid eating in public and may often make excuses for not eating including that they are not really hungry, they feel sick, or that they already ate.

Negative or Distorted Body Image

A person’s body image is defined not only as the way that a person believes others see them physically but also how someone feels in his or her own body. People suffering from eating disorders tend to experience extremely negative and often distorted body images. Typically, one of the signs of eating disorders is when a person constantly complains about needing to lose weight, when in fact the person is often at an average weight or far below a healthy weight. Therefore, a person will become preoccupied with food and weight loss in an attempt to correct certain perceived faults. People with eating disorders may weigh themselves often, obsess about faults, or spend excessive time in front of a mirror analyzing their body.

Compulsive or Extreme Exercise Behaviors

Another sign of an eating disorder is a sudden participation in extreme exercise behaviors. For people suffering from bulimia, compulsive over-exercising can be an attempt to rid the body of extra calories consumed during a binge episode. Additionally, individuals suffering from anorexia may over exercise in an attempt to lose additional weight or to distract them from feelings of hunger.

Disordered Thoughts and Beliefs

One of the many signs of eating disorders is when a person uses eating or not eating to meet psychological needs rather than physical needs. As a result, some individuals suffering from eating disorders may feel a loss of control in other parts of their life, and therefore, they control what they eat obsessively as a way to gain control over their life. Individuals suffering from eating disorders may also suffer from other mental disorders including depression and anxiety.

Emotional Instability

Emotional instability can be another one of the common signs of an eating disorder. Due to chemical imbalances that result from eating disorders, individuals may be overly irritable or may show a flat mood or lack of emotion. Fatigue, depressed moods, and social withdrawal can be additional mental or emotional signs of eating disorders.

McCallum Place addresses all areas of your eating disorder. It’s so important to visit all these areas (physical, mental, emotional, and habitual) to fully understand your eating disorder and how to maintain your personal recovery.

– A Former Resident
Marks of Quality Care
  • Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa
  • International Association Of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP)
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
  • RenewED, Eating Disorders Support
  • Residential Eating Disorders Consortium
  • Washington University in St. Louis