How can I tell If Someone I Care About Has an Eating Disorder? PDF Print E-mail

Someone with an eating disorder will show signs that can be seen but may be confusing to the observer. An individual will likely show some but not all of the signs noted below.

Binge Eating or Compulsive Overeating

Behavioral Signs

  • Either planning to go on a diet, on a diet or has just "broken" one most of the time.
  • Talking about bingeing or dieting
  • Describing foods as "good" or "bad"
  • Hiding food or eating
  • Gaining weight but eating little in the presence of others
  • Eating quickly
  • Avoiding social situations

Psychological and Emotional Signs

  • Mood shifts including irritability, depression, self-hate, shame
  • Denying "negative" feelings
  • Using food to cope with stress or feelings
  • Blaming other problems on weight
  • Feeling out of control with food
  • Feelings of self-worth determined by weight and what is or is not eaten.
     

Physiological Signs

  • Weight gain or fluctuations not explained by medical conditions

     


Bulimia

Behavioral Signs

  • Talking constantly about food, dieting and/or weight
  • Bingeing
  • Hiding food or eating
  • Making frequent trips to the bathroom especially right after eating
  • Dieting very restrictively, vomiting, using laxatives, diuretics or diet pills or exercising excessively in an effort to undo effects of bingeing


Psychological and Emotional Signs

  • Mood shifts including irritability, depression, shame and self-hate
  • Using eating and purging to cope with stress or feelings
  • Feeling out of control with food
  • Feelings of self-worth determined by weight and what is or is not eaten


Physiological Signs

  • Weight fluctuations or little or no weight gain in spite of consumption of large amounts of food
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Swollen glands or puffiness in the face, cracks in the corner of the mouth, broken blood vessels in eyes and face, damaged tooth enamel
  • Fatigue and muscle aches
     

Anorexia

Behavioral Signs

  • Severely restricting food intake or fasting
  • Ritualistic food behaviors such as counting bites, cutting food into tiny bites, playing with food on plate or preparing food for others and refusing to eat it
  • Excessive exercising to lose weight
  • Extreme fear of becoming fat
  • Dressing in baggy or layered clothing to hide weight loss
  • May binge, use laxatives, diuretics or enemas to get rid of food


Psychological and Emotional Signs

  • Mood shifts including irritability, depression, self-hate, shame
  • Feeling of inadequacy about her/his abilities
  • Social isolating
  • Feelings of self-worth determined by what is or is not eaten


Physiological Signs

  • Weight loss (often sudden and to very low body weight).