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Common Signs of Eating Disorders

Updated: Mar 7

Eating Disorders are serious mental and physical illnesses that can affect people from every gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and body shape and weight. Research says that 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders cause people to experience extreme disturbances in their eating habits and food relationships. It affects not only their body but their emotional well-being, as well. People living with an eating disorder are often preoccupied with their weight, body shape, and food.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder is essential. The outcome for treatment is better if the condition is caught early on. Eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of any mental illness, after opioid abuse. Frequently, eating disorders go underdiagnosed and undertreated by practitioners who are not informed about the warning signs and treatment options. The chance for an accurate diagnosis also decreases if the person is not underweight, female and/or white.

This post aims to educate on the warning signs of eating disorders but is not a check-list of symptoms. Most people with an eating disorder exhibit behaviors across a wide spectrum. Use this as a guide and watch for overall changes in a person’s behavior.


PREOCCUPATION. People living with an eating disorder have become preoccupied with diet, weight, body shape, and food. It has become their primary concern, and they obsess over calories, carbohydrates, fats, dieting, and food.

BODY DYSMORPHIA. Body dysmorphia is an obsession with perceived flaws in one’s physical appearance. The imperfections are perceived by the individual, not the people around them, yet they are incredibly concerned and self-conscious about the problem area. They might spend excessive time in mirrors, examining, and searching for perceived flaws.

FOOD RITUALS. If someone has an eating disorder, they try to control their body and life through food. This might mean creating a specific routine around food, avoiding food groups, excessive chewing, eating foods in a specific order, only using specific plates and utensils, weighing and measuring food, hiding food, eating in secret. They also might struggle to eat in front of other people or in public, may skip meals, or eat smaller portions during meals.

MENTAL HEALTH. Eating disorders affect both physical and psychological well-being. Someone with an eating disorder might become more withdrawn from friends and family. They might have extreme mood swings, trouble sleeping, and lack of interest in things they once enjoyed.

PHYSICAL HEALTH. The lack of proper nutrition can cause many physical health problems. Some of the physical symptoms include gastrointestinal issues, menstrual irregularities, rapid weight changes - both up and down, and muscle weakness. The person might feel cold all the time, get dizzy, have dry skin and hair, brittle nails, and impaired immune functioning. As a result of inducing vomiting, they might have cuts or calluses on their fingers' tops and dental troubles.

Eating disorders are severe illnesses, but they are treatable. If you, or someone you know, are experiencing the symptoms of an eating disorder, please seek help.

White Pine Center for Healing is NWPA’s only resource supporting and treating individuals experiencing or recovering from eating disorders, body image issues, weight stigma, and trauma. We promote recovery, prevention and education . For more information, click here or contact us at 814-461-5617.

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