Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia are becoming increasingly common. They mostly affect teenage girls and young women, but men and older women may also suffer from an eating disorder. Anyone with this medical/psychological condition needs to be treated as early as possible to prevent serious health complications. Early detection and treatment can literally save lives.
There are certain signs and symptoms which could indicate if a person has an eating disorder. If you observe these on your own, or in someone you know, there’s a chance that you or that person may need professional help. Speak with your parents, a wellness counselor, or an adult you trust to help you get properly assessed and diagnosed, and when needed, treated.
Physical signs and symptoms
Noticeable weight loss (for people suffering from anorexia nervosa)
Weight fluctuations (for individuals with bulimia nervosa). The weight can move up and down, or it may be within the normal range.
Intolerance to cold. The person feels cold easily.
Frequent experience of abdominal pain, constipation, acid reflux and other digestive issues
Feeling dizzy and sometimes fainting
Either lethargy or excess energy, or alternating experiences of these two other states
Irregularities at the menstrual period
Dental issues (for example, cavities, tooth discoloration and tooth sensitivity)
Dry skin, nails and hair. The person may also have thinning hair and brittle nails. She gets the flu and common infections easily.
Swollen salivary glands (across the neck and jaw areas)
Dressing in layers or loose clothes to disguise weight loss (and also to stay warm)
A preoccupation with weight loss and dieting. The person is very concerned about food choices and nutritional data (calories, fat content, etc.). She can refuse to eat certain types of food altogether, such as carbs or fats.
Frequently commenting that she’s fat or overweight, even though it is evidently not true
Often saying that she isn’t hungry, including during meal times when she should be hungry
Skipping meals or eating very little during foods
Occasionally binge-eating (eating a large amount of food in a short period of time)
Purging. This is accomplished by going to the bathroom during or after meals, nausea, or using laxatives and diuretics.
Unusual food rituals, such as chewing excessively, not allowing different food items on her plate to touch, and eating only certain food types (for example, veggies and salads only)
Excessive drinking of water or non-caloric beverages
Hoarding of food in unusual places
Often looking in the mirror to check her look
Difficulty sleeping or getting a good night’s sleep
Emotional symptoms and signs
Fears eating in public, or feels uncomfortable when eating with others
Prefers to be alone, and withdraws from friends and social events
Has intense mood swings
Has an extreme and ridiculous fear of gaining weight
Has a distorted image of her body
May have poor self-esteem
The presence of these signs and symptoms does not indicate with complete certainty that the person does have an eating disorder. Just a professional medical practitioner can correctly diagnose the illness, so it’s ideal to see one as soon as possible.