Health & Wellness

The Signs of an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders affect both women and men of all ages. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. If you or someone you love may have an eating disorder, visit a healthcare professional for medical support, and know that you are not alone.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an eating disorder that affects people mentally, physically, and emotionally. There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa: restrictor type and bulimic type. Restrictors limit their food intake severely while bulimics eat large amounts then proceed to make themselves vomit. Eventually, this can lead to unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition that can be life threatening. Complications from anorexia include osteoporosis, kidney failure, and heart failure.

Symptoms of Anorexia

  • Low body weight
  • Extreme fear of gaining weight
  • Warped body image
  • Excessive exercise
  • Obsession with food preparation
  • Unusual eating behaviors
  • Denial of hunger
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Bloating
  • Being thin or frail
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Constipation
  • Intolerance to the cold
  • Fine body hair growth
  • Dry skin
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Changes in mood
  • Binge eating or purging
  • Inability to assess severity of the situation

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is characterized by eating a large amount of food then purging by vomiting or excessive use of laxatives. Because people with bulimia often have an average or above average body weight, this eating disorder can go unnoticed by others. Bulimia can cause dangerous complications, including stomach rupture, heart problems, and kidney problems.

Symptoms of Bulimia

  • Recurrent episodes of bingeing
  • Fear of not being able to quit eating
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Excessive fasting and exercise
  • Unusual eating habits
  • Excessive use of laxatives
  • Menstruation irregularities
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Obsession with food, weight, and body type
  • Constant sore throat
  • Dental problems
  • Fatigue
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Intense dislike of own body shape and size
  • Helplessness
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Feeling out of control

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is characterized by eating large amounts of food in a short period of time. People with this disorder are more at risk for obesity and its common complications, including heart disease and diabetes. People with this disorder are also prone to psychiatric problems, especially depression.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

  • Consuming large quantities of food in a short time period
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Feeling guilt or embarrassment after eating
  • History of weight fluctuations
  • More difficulty losing weight
  • Feeling out of control

Use the National Eating Disorder Association’s screening tool to gauge the health of your eating habits. If you suspect you may have an eating disorder, talk with your doctor. Your healthcare provider can provide medical help and advice to get you back to good health.

If you think a loved one may have an eating disorder, follow this advice. Contact a trusted adult or medical professional if you are concerned with the health and safety of your loved one.

In the event of severe malnutrition, fainting, dehydration, or other complications due to an eating disorder, go to the nearest emergency center. Baylor St. Luke’s Emergency Centers are open 24/7 for all emergencies.

National Eating Disorder Association
Anorexia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa
Binge Eating Disorder
Understanding Eating Disorders

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