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Eating Disorder Signs & Clues

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 15 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Eating Disorders anorexia Nervosa

The three main eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Though these disorders are all defined by actions, how a person eats (or does not eat), they are at their core due to emotional factors. This means that people who suffer from one or more of these eating disorders likely show a number of emotional signs such as low self-esteem, low self-confidence, feelings of worthlessness and feelings of helplessness. These signs can be very hard to notice, however, until behaviours are observed. For this reason most of the signs and clues of eating disorders are behavioural.

Signs and Clues of Anorexia

Anorexia is an eating disorder that is characterised by a person's fear of gaining weight and body fat. In order to avoid weight and fat, anorexics tend to eat little, fast and/or exercise excessively in hopes of burning off any calories which they may have consumed. Other behaviours commonly exhibited by anorexics include knowing the calorie count in most food and obsessively counting calories, "playing" with or pushing food around a plate instead of eating it, hiding food (in a napkin, under a plate, etc.) to avoid eating it, lying about having eaten, avoiding social situations that will offer food and/or require eating, eating only a certain type of food, showing excessive interest in weight and body image, hiding the body behind loose or baggy clothing, showing low energy levels, falling ill more frequently and showing changes in sleep patterns, particularly sleeping more often and during the day.

Signs and Clues of Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder that is characterised by binging and purging. Binging includes eating massive amounts of food in one setting, whether it be traditional junk food or not, while purging means to expel this food from the body. Commonly purging is carried out by vomiting or taking laxatives. In addition to these behaviours, many bulimics also hide the food reserved for binges, commonly including bread, pasta, sweets, desserts, crisps and ice cream, lie about what they have eaten, purge in secret or with the taps running, hide laxative pills and show excessive concern about their body weight, body shape and/or body image. Bulimics may also have health concerns related to purging, including frequent sore throats, swollen glands and dental problems. Hiding their bodies behind loose or baggy clothing and showing changes in sleeping patterns is also common of bulimics.

Signs and Clues of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorders are characterised by binging (eating large amounts of food at one sitting) but without purging to rid the body of this food. This eating may occur even when the person is not particularly hungry and continue until the person feels physically sick. Hiding their binges due to shame or embarrassment, hiding the food reserved for binges, "grazing" on food for as long as it is available and emotional eating (particularly when feeling stressed or overwhelmed) are also behaviours in which binge eaters engage. Expressing disgust at their eating, weight, body or appearance, hiding their body behind voluminous clothing and changes in sleeping patterns are also behaviours commonly associated with binge eaters.

Though eating disorders are often emotional in nature they are most frequently recognised due to the behavioural signs and clues associated with them. For further information on eating disorders visit a medical or mental health professional.

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