Part 2: Signs and Symptoms

Our last discussion revealed that there are currently 9 known eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorders {BED}, rumination disorder, pica disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder {AFRID}, orthorexia nervosa, diabulimia and OSFED. Would you be able recognize if a loved one or coworker or church member or neighbor was suffering from an eating disorder? Let’s look at the signs and how to follow through to help the sufferer. Remember, anyone can be affected, and the symptoms may vary in each individual.

In our last article we defined each eating disorder but it is equally important to know the warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders

Warning signs of eating disorders:

  • Significant weight loss in a short period of time: the telltale sign here is that he/she sheds many pounds in a short time yet has not gained much muscle tone.
  • Changes in personality: Uninterested in or withdrawn from hanging out with friends, withdrawn from interests or have a strong need to control. They may show moodiness, confusion, depression, anger outbursts, crying spells, feelings of anxiety and repetitive behaviors.
  • Fatigue: Difficulties focusing in class, work, church or even in a conversation. They will also exhibit change in sleep patterns like insomnia and short spurts of sleep and sometimes nap excessively as the body is tired from lack of proper nutrition.
  • Lying about food: He/she will regularly make excuses to skip meals or avoid eating or being around food-related events. He/she will say things like, “I already ate.” or “I don’t have an appetite.” Refusing to eat around family or in public.
  • Skin and hair changes: Losing hair, growing thin, fine hair on the skin especially arms, neck, and face. The skin will appear excessively cracked or dry and on occasion peel from lack of fluid retention and malnutrition from throwing up all the time.
  • Changes in body temperature: He/she has cold intolerance and wears lots of layers. The layers also hide the weight loss.
  • Self-esteem changes: The sufferer always sees themselves as “fat” no matter what anyone says and what any mirror shows. They are always nitpicking at how they look and comparing self to others they deem skinnier than them. They never agree to their low body weight because in their mind, they don’t see it.
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after eating: this is to purge or vomit and usually occurs within 30 minutes of eating. They use diet pills, laxatives and enemas to aid in this process.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles: She has a “late” start time for her age. She has sporadic periods or light amounts for a short period of time. Sometimes her cycle stops for around 3 months.
  • Strict habits: Strict about excessive exercising, strict about caloric intake, strict about food portions and sizes, and strict about what food groups they will eat from.
  • Hiding or hoarding food: Parents, watch for large amounts of food missing. This is a definite telltale sign of a binger. Bingers eat unusually large amounts of food then purge it within 30-45 minutes.
  • Changes in teeth: Dental or enamel erosion from the acid of repetitive purging and vomiting. Teeth sensitivity due to the wear on the enamel. Excessive dental decay or cavities from the acid from purging.


For moderate to severe cases of eating disorders, there are eating disorder care facilities to guide them back on the path of optimal health and changed thinking. 

For more information, you can contact NEDA, National Eating Disorder Association by email at For 24/7 crisis support, text 'NEDA' to 741741 or call (212) 575-6200.


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