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Signs of an Eating Disorder

What are the warning signs of an eating disorder?  Changes in eating can signal a variety of conditions, from a simple cold or flu to depression to an eating disorder. Keep reading to learn about changes in eating habits and other signs of an eating disorder.


The name eating disorder may be misleading to some people if they have the expectation that the only signs of illness that people with an eating disorder are directly related to eating. Eating disorders have food at their center, but there are a number of other signs that can be signs of eating disorders (or in most cases, may also be signs of other issues).

It is easier to see the signs of an eating disorder in a person with whom one lives, or at least with whom one eats: you could work all day, every weekday, in an office with someone and not have a clue. The difficulty of spotting an eating disorder may be exacerbated by the person's attempt to hide his or her altered relationship to food.

Signs of an eating disorder can be divided into two categories: those that can be a sign of any type of eating disorder, and those that are more particular to one or another of the particular eating disorders. These broad signs include a dramatic difference in a person's weight to height ratio, something that would likely only be seen by the parents and pediatrician of a child or teen. Signs that might be noticed by others as well include statements that reveal a negative body image, avoidance of eating in company with others, symptoms of anxiety or depression, or any type of extreme behavior related to food, bathroom use, or exercise.

If you see signs of an eating disorder, seek help from a health care professional: online forums are notoriously unreliable for assisting in recovery, often harboring proponents of eating disorders as a lifestyle choice.

Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa may exhibit unusual eating habits and secrecy about eating, with obsessive behavior about the amount and types of food, as well as about weight and appearance. Results of the disorder that are perceptible include marked weight loss, increased irritability and decreased attention, fatigue, hyperactivity, and low body temperature. While there may be hair loss on the scalp, hair (called lanugo) may begin to grow on the body and limbs.

Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder, or BED, tends to lead to marked weight gain because there is not an offset method, as in bulimia nervosa. A person with BED may eat very large portions at a great rate of speed, and eat again shortly after finishing a meal. BED may also result in secrecy about eating and hiding food to ensure its availability.

Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

Signs of bulimia nervosa include those connected with food consumption, those connected with the manner of offsetting the calorie intake, and those that result from diminished nutrition. People with bulimia nervosa don't simply eat large amounts: they have an uncontrollable urge to eat like those with binge eating disorder. Depending on how they offset the large amounts of food they eat, they may vomit frequently, and have facial swelling, tooth decay or bad breath, or broken blood vessels in their eyes as a result. They may exercise excessively and/or compulsively, manifest obsessive behavior in relation to food, They may be moody, exhibit signs of fatigue or weakness, bruise easily, and a woman may cease to have her monthly period.

Signs of Rumination Disorder

Regurgitation and re-chewing are the two main signs of rumination disorder. Other signs may include indigestion or stomachaches, and signs around the mouth, including raw or chapped lips, bad breath, and tooth decay.

Signs of Pica

Pica, which has gained more attention recently due to a television show focusing on it, is mainly recognized by the sight of someone eating some substance other than food. A secondary sign is a lessened appetite for food at regular meals. Depending on the substance that the person is ingesting, other symptoms - more or less serious - may arise, in addition to, for example, deficiencies from a lack of consumption of food.



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