Signs & Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Posted by | March 30, 2016 | Eating Disorders | No Comments
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Eating disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa, Binge-eating Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa, are unfortunately quite common among our youth today and can have serious and potentially devastating effects on those who are affected by them. When I was in high school, I witnessed a few friends suffer from eating disorders and was unsure about how to approach the situation or if my friends actually had eating disorders. As I am sure this is the case with many people, in high school or at any stage in life, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders so that you can know when it is time to seek help for a friend or family member or even for yourself.

The three most common eating disorders, as mentioned above, are Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa. Let us begin by touching on the signs and symptoms of anorexia. People who suffer from anorexia often have an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape. These people usually intake an inadequate amount of food, have an obsession with weight and weight gain prevention, and cannot appreciate the severity of the situation they are in. These people may also exercise excessively, use laxatives or diet aids, and may often vomit after eating. Anorexia can cause severe health problems and can even lead to deadly self-starvation, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that you may help someone who potentially suffers from this awful eating disorder.

Warning Signs of Anorexia:

  • Dramatic weight loss.
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.).
  • Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
  • Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat.”
  • Denial of hunger.
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate).
  • Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to “burn off” calories taken in.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.

The next eating disorder I would like to touch on is Binge-eating disorder. With this disorder, one regularly eats too much food with no control over what you are eating. These binges occur without any efforts to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting. During or after a session of binge eating, the victim often feels strong shame or guilt regarding what he or she is eating but is out of control during the episode. Binge-eating disorder becomes a larger issue when the victim eats when he or she is not hungry, eats to a point of discomfort, or eats alone because of shame about the behavior. A new round of binging usually occurs at least once a week, and a person who suffers from this disorder may be a normal weight, overweight, or obese.

Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Evidence of binge eating, including the disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or lots of empty wrappers and containers indicating consumption of large amounts of food.
  • Secretive food behaviors, including eating secretly (e.g., eating alone or in the car, hiding wrappers) and stealing, hiding, or hoarding food.
  • Disruption in normal eating behaviors, including eating throughout the day with no planned mealtimes; skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals; engaging in sporadic fasting or repetitive dieting; and developing food rituals (e.g., eating only a particular food or food group [e.g., condiments], excessive chewing, not allowing foods to touch).
  • Avoiding conflict; trying to “keep the peace.”
  • Certain thought patterns and personality types are associated with binge eating disorder. These include:
    • Rigid and inflexible “all or nothing” thinking
    • A strong need to be in control
    • Difficulty expressing feelings and needs
    • Perfectionistic tendencies
    • Working hard to please others

The final eating disorder I would like to cover is bulimia. Signs and symptoms of bulimia contain aspects of both anorexia and binge-eating disorders and is quite dangerous for those who suffer from it. Victims often have episodes of consuming very large amounts of food and follow these episodes with behaviors to prevent weight-gain such as self-induced vomiting. Those who suffer from this often feel out of control while eating and will try to restrict consumption during the day, only to have more binge eating and purging episodes. Victims often feel guilty and shameful during such episodes and also have an intense fear of weight gain from overeating. Victims will not only purge after overeating, but may also exercise too much or use laxatives to get rid of the consumed calories. Those who suffer from bulimia are very concerned with body weight and shape and can be severely judgmental of self-perceived flaws.

 Warning Signs of Bulimia:

  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or finding wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food.
  • Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics.
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the compulsive need to “burn off” calories taken in.
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area.
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting.
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth.
  • Creation of lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.
  • Continued exercise despite injury; overuse injuries.

These signs and symptoms mentioned above are certainly not all-encompassing, but they are definitely signs you should watch out for if you believe a friend or loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder. Please do not be afraid to reach out for help if you believe you know someone suffering from an eating disorder. Acting sooner rather than later can save that person from the dangerous and potentially lethal effects of eating disorders.

Kathryn Kimmell

Kathryn Kimmell

Kathryn Kimmell is a Forensic Services Associate with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Accounting from the University of Texas in Austin. She is passionate about both sports and music and tries to incorporate both into her everyday life. She is very excited to be volunteering with Something for Kelly and hopes to contribute to the positive impact the foundation has on those impacted by eating disorders.
Kathryn Kimmell

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