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Symptoms of Eating Disorders
The person with this condition sees themselves as overweight—even if very thin. Eating becomes an obsession. The person develops unusual eating habits. They may avoid food and meals. They may pick out a few foods and eat them in small amounts.
Some other symptoms of anorexia may be:
- Excess weight loss
- Obsession with food calories and fat content
- Dieting even when thin
- Strong fear of gaining weight
- Distorted self-image
- Excess exercise
- Being secretive about food
- Physical problems, such as:
- Skipping menstrual periods
- Feeling cold
- Hair loss or growth of fine hair on the body
- Fainting or lightheadedness
- Depression or anxiety
- Pounding or skipped heartbeats
- Weakness and muscle wasting
The person may use other ways to control their weight. They may use forced vomiting. They may take medicines called laxatives—to pass more stools (poop). Or they may use diuretics—medicines to flush water and salt from the body. Girls with anorexia often have a delay with their first menstrual period. Their height may also be lower than it should.
Anorexia is different in each person. Some may get better after one episode. Others may have a pattern of relapse. Sometimes, it can last years.
This condition is a cycle of binge eating, then purging or exercise. Purging is forced vomiting or use of laxative or diuretics. The person's weight may be within the normal range for their age and height. But, they may fear gaining weight. They may binge and purge in secret. This may make them feel shame or disgust with themselves.
Some other symptoms of bulimia may be:
- Eating large amounts of food at one time
- Eating feels out of control
- Forced throwing up
- Taking laxatives, enemas, diuretics, or diet pills
- Excess exercise
- Spending a lot of time alone
- Mood swings or trouble controlling impulses
- Mental health problems such as:
- Impulse control problems
- Alcohol or substance misuse
Bulimia may cause:
- Belly pain
- Missed monthly periods
- Swelling of the cheeks and jaw
- A sore throat
- Stained, eroded, or chipped teeth because of stomach acid
- Cuts or scars on back of the hand from forced vomiting
This condition involves bouts of eating that feel out of control. Most of the time this is done in about 2 hours. With binge eating disorder (BED), there is no purging. The person may gain too much weight over time.
Some symptoms of BED are:
- Cycles of binge eating—excess amounts of food without a sense of control
The binge eating is linked to at least 3 of these:
- Eating much faster than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of shame
- Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating
- The binge eating happens at least 2 days a week for 6 months
- There is no regular purging, fasting, or excess exercise
About eating disorders. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders. Accessed September 6, 2018.
Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114614/Anorexia-nervosa . Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2018.
Binge eating disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T563461/Binge-eating-disorder . Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2018.
Bulimia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114924/Bulimia-nervosa . Updated July 16, 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
Eating disorders: About more than food. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Updated 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
- Update Date: 04/06/2022