Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

With burgers, pizzas, hotdogs and other such junk food items almost taking over the place of the staple, planned and healthy food in our lives, concerns over health issues have been steadily soaring. These increasing health issues have given rise to obsessive concerns over body weight and shape, thereby leading to erratic food habits in an attempt to lose weight. These eating disorders in turn, result in certain serious physical as well as psychological disorders. Before the eating disorder takes a drastic and fatal turn, one must seek medical help as soon as the warning signs of any eating disorders are noted. As there are a few types of eating disorders, the symptoms and warning signs of each of them would differ. Let us have a look first at what exactly is considered as an eating disorder and the different types of eating disorders before learning the warning signs of it.

Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

What are Eating Disorders?

With the increasing rise in the intake of junk food, health issues, particularly those concerning weight gain have also been soaring quite rapidly. This concern regarding one's weight leads them to bring about a drastic change in their food habits resulting in the manifestation of certain behavioral, physical and psychiatric symptoms, which combined together, can be referred to as eating disorders. Not only do eating disorders have a negative impact on the physical health of a person but also affect in the psychological arenas leading to a kind of impairment in the ability to perform associated regular activities. Eating disorders also affect the heart, digestive system, bones, oral health and lead to serious health issues. Though the occurrence of eating disorders is not limited to particular age group, teenagers and young people are more likely to be affected by them.

Types of Eating Disorders

Research shows that around 50% of the people suffering from eating disorders are likely to suffer from depression. It is also scary that unlike other diseases, these disorders scarcely receive treatment, with 1 in about 10 people opting for treatment. Eating disorders also account for the highest fatality rate associated with any psychological illness. Eating disorders can be broadly categorized into four types-

  • Anorexia Nervosa: This is a type of eating disorder which is distinguished by self- starvation and a disproportionate loss in body weight, Anorexia is probably one of the most complicated form or a type of eating disorder. People suffering from this disorder in effect perform slow self-immolation over a long period.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: This a type of eating disorder which is characterized by the intake of excessive amounts of food over a short period of time, followed by vomiting, overuse of laxative, enemas, over-exercising and the like in order to get rid of the calories, Bulimia Nervosa is another form of eating disorder.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: Also referred to as compulsive overeating, Binge Eating Disorder is a type of eating disorder that involves intake of food beyond the permissible comfort level for the body. Unlike Bulimia Nervosa, this eating disorder does not include purging of the food. However, it is characterized by a feeling of guilt and shame at the amount eaten and the consequent effect on the body. People suffering from this eating disorder generally have body weights ranging from normal, mild, moderate to highly obese.
  • Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders or OSFED: This kind of eating disorder can be defined as the combination of the signs and symptoms of all the other kinds of eating disorders. However, OSFED does not fulfill all the criteria for the diagnosis of any of the specific eating disorder. Erratic eating habits, distorted body shape, intense weight gain or the fear of doing so are some of the common symptoms of a person suffering from OSFED.

Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

The warning signs of all forms of eating disorders are not limited to only physical manifestations- behavioral and psychological manifestations also form an important part of the warning signs.

  • Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

    Anorexia Nervosa is a type of eating disorder which is characterized by excessive and dramatic weight loss and a starved appearance has the following signs and symptoms:

    Physical Signs & Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

    • A person suffering from Anorexia Nervosa is likely to have signs of a starved appearance with the bones protruding out of the body.
    • An Anorexic person will have signs of suffering from from constant fatigue, dizziness and even fainting spells.
    • Signs of Amenorrhea or irregularities in the menstrual cycle can also be observed in Anorexic women.
    • Signs of thinning and falling out of the hair, brittle nails and fine hair covering the facial aspects and other body parts may also be noticed.

    Behavioral and Emotional Signs of Anorexia Nervosa- An Eating Disorder

    • Refusing to take food and denying hunger can be a sign of Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorder.
    • Consuming only low fat food, spewing out food after chewing, cutting food into tiny pieces and then consuming them and the like.
    • Exercising more than necessary.
  • Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

    Bulimia Nervosa that is characterized by a consistent pattern of binging and purging includes consuming a high amount of food above the permissible level of the body and then trying to get rid of the calorie intake by a variety of methods, such as, vomiting, over-exercising, laxative abuse and the like. The signs and symptoms of this eating disorder include:

    Physical Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

    • A patient of Bulimia is likely to have signs of abnormality in the functioning of the bowels.
    • Signs of damaged teeth and gums along with soreness of mouth and throat.
    • Patient of bulimia nervosa is likely to have signs of swollen salivary glands and the patient also experiences irritated and inflamed esophagus.
    • Women suffering from Bulimia are also likely to show signs of irregularities in the menstrual cycle.

    Behavioral Signs of Bulimia Nervosa- An Eating Disorder

    • Being secretive about eating habits with a tendency to keep food packets and wrappers hidden can be a sign of bulimia nervosa.
    • Patients suffering from Builimia Nervosa will show signs of tendency to make frequent trips to the washroom every time they eat.
    • Bulimia patient also goes through a phase of constant dieting.
  • Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

    Binge Eating Disorder or Compulsive Eating involves two key aspects-

    1. Consuming a large amount of food beyond the comfort level of the body in a short span of time.
    2. People suffering from this condition generally undergo a feeling of inability to control themselves while eating.

    People suffering from Binge Eating Disorder are likely to manifest the following signs and symptoms:

    Physical Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

    • Signs of abnormal weight gain often leading to obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, kidney and heart problems, diabetes and the like.
    • Patients are also at a high risk of suffering from osteoarthritis, gallbladder diseases, skin diseases and the like.
    • Women may face irregularities during menstrual cycle and a complicated pregnancy.

    Behavioral Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

    • Consuming a large amount of food well above the comfort level of the body within a short span of time is a sign of binge eating disorder.
    • Signs of inability to control such irregular eating habits.
    • Adopting a secretive attitude while eating.
    • A feeling of guilt a nd shame at the amount of food that one gets through.
    • Always feeling dissatisfied with the amount of food eaten and not having proper mealtimes.
  • Warning Signs of Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders or OSFED

    Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders or OSFED manifests symptoms that maybe said to be a combination of the symptoms of all the other three forms of Eating Disorders.

    Physical Signs and Symptoms of Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders or OSFED

    • Fluctuations in weight gain as well as weight loss can be a sign of Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders or OSFED.
    • Women are likely to face irregularities in the menstrual cycle and the men suffering from this condition are likely to suffer from decreased levels of libido.
    • Patients are also likely to suffer from dizziness and fainting spells as a consequence of dehydration.
    • People suffering from this condition are also likely to suffer from a damaged immune system.

    Behavioral Signs of Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders or OSFED

    • Consuming food at odd hours and not having a set pattern for having meals.
    • Adopting secrecy while eating food and noticeable change in eating habits.
    • Obsessive concern with body weight and shape.
    • Suffering from depression, anxiety and acute sensitivity to comments associated with food, weight gain and loss, body shape and the like.

    Though it is not possible to eradicate or prevent eating disorders completely, there are certain lifestyle changes that one could adopt in order to minimize the effects of these conditions. The earlier the warning signs of eating disorder are identified, the easier it becomes to prevent the furthering or drastic condition that this disorder can lead to.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: April 2, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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