15 Eating Disorder Signs

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From the late 80’s to date, the occurrence of eating disorders in the population has been increasing in alarming rates. In the U.S. alone, up to 20 million of women and 10 million of men may suffer an eating disorder at one point in their lives. Among gay men, 14% may suffer from bulimia and 20% are anorexic.

To start off, what exactly is an eating disorder? Eating disorders are a type of mental illness typically characterized by either too much or too little food intake. The intake may be limited in terribly unhealthy ways such as excessive caloric restriction, over exercising or purging (vomiting). It can also go the other way, going on a food binge to compensate for something lacking emotionally.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. ED’s are typically accompanied by other mental conditions, such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is believed that 50% of those who suffer from anorexia also suffer from depression. Of those who suffer from ED’s, 86% report onset by age 20 while the rest report onset between ages 16 to 20. In college age women, 25% have admitted to participating in bingeing and purging in their efforts to lose weight. To date, anorexia has become the 3rd most chronic illness among adolescents. If that sounds bad enough to you, the statistics are even worse for athletes where the incidence of eating disorders is markedly higher. In judged spots, athletes are 13% more at risk to develop an ED than the general population, as compared to a 3% higher risk for refereed sports. In a study conducted on athletic women and a control group, only 9% of the control group developed a disorder while 20% of the athletic participants did.

Besides the troubling numbers, there is much cause for concern because of the gravity of the consequences of chronic eating disorders. Patients may develop heart disease as a consequence of abnormal blood pressure from either eating too little or too much. The patients may also experience fat, muscle and bone density loss, as well as tooth decay. Hair loss is common, along with dry skin.


The most common types of eating disorders are: ANOREXIA NERVOSA, BULIMIA NERVOSA and BINGE EATING DISORDER.


Anorexia nervosa, or more commonly referred to as simply anorexia, is a potentially life-threatening mental disorder where a person limits their intake excessively. This can be done by eating too little, exercising too much, being extremely particular about your caloric intake and having a distorted perception of body weight and shape.


Commonly referred to as bulimia, it is characterized by a cycle of bingeing and purging. A patient may stuff themselves with a large amount of food, a telling sign that they have difficulty controlling their cravings, and then they try their best to expel that food afterwards. For fear of weight gain, bulimics will do anything in their power to “purge” the food they eat. This can be done through vomiting (purging bulimia) or through excessive exercise and laxatives (non-purging bulimia). In any case, the constant vomiting causes ulcers to develop along the digestive tract, while the constant bingeing develops obesity-like symptoms in the patient, like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.


When you have binge eating disorder (BED) you eat large amounts of food and continue eating long after you have become uncomfortably full, but don’t overcompensate for it with purging and exercise the way a bulimic would. This disorder is more about the patient’s inability to control their urges around food and less about fear of becoming fat. Those who suffer from binge eating disorder exhibit guilt and shame for their behavior by eating alone or in private. Binges typically occur once a week.


Eating disorders are probably one of the most physically and psychologically damaging things a person could inflict upon themselves. Like with all other types of illnesses, early detection can make all the difference. This can become challenging however because those who suffer from eating disorders tend to be quite private about their problems. Below are some of the signs to look out for if you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder.

  1. Constant concern (to the point of obsession) or voicing out of how their bodies look. If they often feel fat when they technically aren’t, pay even closer attention.
  2. Heavily restricted eating habits and making up excuses not to eat.
  3. Frequent checking on the mirror for imagined flaws.
  4. Use of dietary supplements and other unnatural ways to lose weight.
  5. Calluses on knuckles from constant purging.
  6. Dental decay, brittle hair and extremely dry skin.
  7. Going to the toilet frequently when eating a meal.
  8. Expressing disgust for themselves (their body and eating habits).
  9. Excessive exercise and obsessive “healthy” eating
  10. Obsession about “healthy” eating.
  11. Rapid weight loss.
  12. For women, they usually stop menstruating when they have lost extreme amounts of weight.
  13. Constant “dieting”.
  14. Excessive use of gums, mint and mouthwash (constant vomiting and starvation can cause bad breath).
  15. Having issues with eating in front of other people.

If you know somebody who exhibits some or all of these signs, urge them to seek professional help immediately.