Eating Disorder Behaviors

Eating Disorder Behaviors

The American Psychiatric Association defines eating disorders as “illnesses in which people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.” Eating disorders are most common in women between the ages of 12 and 35, and those that are dealing with them often find themselves preoccupied with thoughts regarding food and their body weight. The American Psychiatric Association says that the three most common subsets of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Furthermore, it is possible that disordered eating habits may develop alongside other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and the abuse of drugs or alcohol. 

Individuals that develop anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are often quick to condemn themselves as well as their bodies and tend to be perfectionists. Furthermore, those suffering from such eating disorders may deny the existence of a problem in the beginning, and their issues may escalate to the point of continuing to see themselves as overweight despite being malnutritioned. These issues may also come with intrusive thoughts involving a fear of weight gain. 


Possible Signs of Disordered Eating

The National Eating Disorders Association says that behavioral and emotional signs of an eating disorder could include:

  • Recurrent dieting
  • Skipping meals
  • Excessive chewing
  • Not allowing certain foods to touch
  • Taking small portions of food at regular meals
  • A preoccupation with calories, food, weight, fat grams, carbohydrates, and dieting
  • Behaviors and attitudes that point towards dieting, weight loss, and control of food becoming major concerns for an individual
  • Frequent checks in the mirror for supposed flaws in their appearance
  • Great concern with one’s body shape and size
  • Withdrawal from usual activities 
  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Food rituals (only eating a particular food group or food)
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Appearing uncomfortable eating around other people
  • The refusal to eat specific foods, which can progress to restrictions against entire food groups (i.e. no carbohydrates)


And physical manifestations of eating disorders could include:

  • Fainting
  • Issues with one’s sleep
  • Impaired immunity
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Dry hair and skin
  • The discoloration of teeth as well as the development of cavities, which may result from vomiting
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Fine hair on one’s body
  • Noticeable fluctuations (both up and down) of weight
  • Stomach cramps and other non-specific gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and acid reflux
  • Swelling around the salivary glands
  • Dizziness, particularly when one stands up
  • Menstrual irregularities, such as missed periods or only experiencing a period when on hormonal contraceptives
  • Poor wound healing 
  • Cold, mottled hands
  • Abnormal laboratory results such as low hormone levels, anemia, low white and red blood cell counts, and low potassium
  • Yellow skin (could be in the context of eating large amounts of carrots)
  • Cuts and/or calluses across the top of finger joints, which could suggest inducing vomiting
  • Brittle nails
  • Muscle weakness
  • The Swelling of one’s feet


Treating an Eating Disorder

The National Eating Disorders Association says that one’s journey of recovery from an eating disorder can take anywhere from months to years. Additionally, it is likely that someone in recovery will need extensive support from friends, family, as well as certified healthcare professionals as they relearn coping skills and adequate eating habits. Relapsing while one is recovering from an eating disorder may be common, but continuing to move forward despite any and all roadblocks is considered to be essential to one’s recovery. 

Eating Disorder Hope estimates that 10 million women and 1 million men in the United States find eating disorders to be a daily struggle. If you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, we are here to help at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You may contact us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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