Detecting an Eating Disorder – Signs That someone Close Could Have One

Eating disorders are defined as a group of conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits with mental and physical consequences and are a manifestation of complex issues relating to self esteem, control, and body image.


Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder are the most widely observed and studied eating disorders. The following behaviors could be warning signs that could alert you about someone close to you having an eating disorder-

Preoccupation with food, calories and so on

Anyone with an eating disorder has a preoccupation with food, calories, ‘good’ food, ‘bad’ food, and so on.

They may refuse to eat certain foods at all and may eat very little at meal times and may find ways to eat alone (when they may avoid eating or may binge).

Weight fluctuation

Sudden weight loss may be a sign of fasting and food deprivation signifying anorexia. Sudden weight gain may signify a binge eating disorder.

Having said this however, those with eating disorders are often seen to have normal or near normal weight.

Gynecological problems

Infertility, lack of periods, irregular periods, and similar gynecological and hormonal problems may be an indication of disordered eating and of the body experiencing actual malnutrition due to severe caloric restriction (anorexia) or purging (vomiting or using purgatives as in bulimia).

Skin, hair and teeth changes

As the body experiences deprivation or perceives starvation, it starts to conserve resources for vital body functions. As a result of this, the skin may become dry, lined and lifeless; similarly hair could become dry, brittle and may even start to fall. In cases there could also be sudden acne breakouts. Bulimics in particular tend to suffer a lot of teeth damage because of the stomach acid coming into contact with tooth enamel when they induce vomiting. Bad breath is also common among those with eating disorders.

Lying or inability to account for time and actions

There is a lot of subterfuge involved in perpetuating the rituals of eating disorders and also a lot of time consumed in this. A person has to find the time to shop for things to binge on, then find the time and place to purge in secret for instance; all this can be time consuming and when this behavior is done in secret, the disorder sufferer may not be able to account for or give satisfactory explanations for time, money, food consumed and so on.

Secretive behavior

There could be lengthy periods of being ensconced in one’s room, long periods spent surfing the net or chatting online. The person may be spending time trying to find information about purgatives, emetics, ways to control hunger, and even tips to hide their behavior, and the person may be vague or evasive about what they were actually doing. They may start to dress differently to disguise sudden weight loss or weight gain.

Weakness, lethargy, paleness, dizzy spells

These may also be signs of malnutrition as the result of an eating disorder.

Feeling unusual cold

Poor cold tolerance can also be the result of an eating disorder.

Though an eating disorder is far from the only reason for the symptoms above, if several of the above symptoms manifest, they may be a sign that help is urgently needed.



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