How to Know If You Have an Eating Disorder?

Heather Campbell
 min read

How to know if you have an eating disorder?

How to Know If You Have an Eating Disorder?It is often thought that an eating disorder can be recognized by certain eating behaviors or being underweight.

As a general rule, an eating disorder is often apparent through excessive weight loss, weight gain, or considerable weight fluctuations. A distorted perception of body weight, eating patterns and an unhealthy obsession with food are also indicators. It is important to always consult an expert.

Indeed, this is usually an important signal. Still, an eating disorder does have more features that may suggest anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or other specified feeding or eating disorder.

Below we have listed some specific signs and criteria that may suggest an eating disorder.

How to know if you have an eating disorder: Introduction

An eating disorder often involves weight loss, weight gain and/or weight fluctuation.

If you are underweight or malnourished, various physical symptoms may arise, such as:

  • Dressing too cold to burn extra calories
  • Insomnia
  • Experiencing pain when lying or sitting
  • Dizziness
  • In women, irregular menstruation or the absence of it
  • A pale complexion
  • Have blue hands, feet and nose
  • Fatigue
  • Straightening your clothes to disguise the body
  • Hair loss
  • Wearing wide clothing or multiple layers of clothing to hide weight changes
  • Fainting
  • Coldness

Meaning and perception of the body and weight

How you experience your body and weight can reveal an extraordinary amount of information about a possible eating disorder.

The following perceptions may be an indication that you have an eating disorder:

  • Struggling with suicidal thoughts
  • Gain a sense of strength and discipline from having control over body weight
  • Experiencing a distorted body image instead of experiencing a positive body image
  • Your weight determines your mood
  • Avoiding physical contact is what you often do
  • You have a fear of gaining weight and getting fat
  • You are convinced that being slim makes you happier
  • Suffering from shame about your own body and your eating habits
  • Your body shape, weight, and appearance disproportionately affect your self-image
  • You often struggle with feelings of melancholy, depression, anxiety and constant worry
  • Unfortunately, you are pursuing an unrealistically low ideal weight

The eating pattern of an eating disorder

Your eating pattern is also a great indicator of whether you have an eating disorder.

Indications of an eating disorder regarding nutrition

Indications that you are suffering from an eating disorder include the following:

  • You compulsively arrange your food on the plate
  • Certain foods you no longer want to eat
  • Refusing food and fluids
  • Suppressing your appetite by, for example, drinking excessively or using mouthwash
  • Pretending and thus fake food
  • Skipping meals
  • Diets
  • Cutting your food extremely small before eating it
  • Chewing food but then spitting it out again
  • Lent
  • Throwing away food
  • Eat very slowly
  • You start eating less

In addition, binge eating occurs in bulimia nervosa and an eating disorder.

When you think you have consumed too much food in a short period and feel that you have lost control of your eating, this is also an important signal that you are suffering from an eating disorder.

Like eating frozen food, stealing food from stock or refrigerator, mixing up sweet and salty, hoarding food like certain animals, taking food out of the garbage to eat, and devouring food like an animal without tasting.

Physical symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, burping, abdominal pain, and flatulence are often involved.

Indications of an eating disorder around meal times

Around the meal times, a few things also stand out. Indeed, when you are stuck with an eating disorder, you are overly preoccupied with food and often very interested in information about healthy eating.

This may include collecting recipes, cooking for others, creating diet lists, and paying attention to what others are eating.

Food is often classified into 2 categories by people with eating disorders: Good or bad (so stopping this black and white thinking is a first step to fight an eating disorder). People then gradually classify more and more foods into this category of prohibited foods.

People with eating disorders also often have specific rules and rituals surrounding their eating behavior. These include obsessive calorie counting, fixed eating times, and a particular order of eating foods.

Also, guilt often thrives when you eat more than planned, and there is restlessness and tension around eating occasions.

When you have an eating disorder, you prefer to eat alone and avoid social situations where you have to eat with other people. Entanglement is then, unfortunately, the result.

Compensatory measures

Do you recognize the compensatory measures below? If so, chances are you are struggling with an eating disorder...

Effects of compensating measures

Compensatory measures such as self-induced vomiting follow when you feel you have overeaten.

This type of self-induced vomiting can then have the following consequences:

  • A hoarse and/or hoarse voice
  • Unhealthy complexion
  • Irritated corners of the mouth
  • Dental records
  • A bloated face
  • Abraded incisors
  • Pointed bruises on the face
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Moisture accumulation
  • Wounds on knuckles (and plasters on them to hide them)
  • Affected tooth enamel as a result of acidic stomach contents
  • Dehydration

People with eating disorders abuse weight-loss teas, dietary preparations, pee pills, appetite suppressants, cigarettes, enemas, laxatives, weight loss creams, and drugs.

Do you use a lot of toilet paper? Do you have diarrhea, or do you ever have an ‘accident’? These are also worrying signs.

People with eating disorders also tend to visit pharmacies more than the average person, often struggle with financial problems, and experience one or more side effects from the various drugs they take.

Another way people with eating disorders compensate is by exercising excessively.

People with eating disorders may exercise or move around compulsively, doing intense physical exercises at inappropriate times or places despite injuries.

Environmental risk factors

The following environmental factors increase the risk of developing an eating disorder:

Cultural and social

  • In our society today, there is more and more of a tendency towards individualization where assertiveness is expected and where expressing one’s own feelings and opinions are also likely.
  • Expectations toward girls and women have also changed dramatically in recent decades. From being dependent and sweet in the past to being independent and assertive today
  • There is a strong emphasis today on appearance, making the best possible impression and performance

Direct environment

  • Being bullied
  • Being emotionally abused
  • Being neglected
  • Separation of parents
  • Family culture with a woeful taboo on expressing disagreements and conflicts
  • Taboo on physicality and sexuality in the family in which one grows up
  • Engage in sports where weight is a factor
  • Being sexually abused
  • Being overprotected
  • Experiencing physical violence
  • Family culture with taboo on expressing feelings in general
  • Have a mother, father or family member with an eating disorder
  • Being highly performance-oriented

Personal risk factors

The following factors at the personal level increase the risk of developing an eating disorder:

Biological factors that increase the likelihood of an eating disorder

  • Have a predisposition to high sensitivity or hypersensitivity
  • Have a predisposition to depression
  • Have an inclination to addictive behavior
  • Have a tendency to be overweight and/or obese

Psychosocial factors that increase the likelihood of an eating disorder

  • Having trouble being assertive enough
  • Being dependent on the approval of others
  • Perfectionism dominating your life
  • Exhibit adapted behavior and/or chameleon behavior
  • Struggling with a negative self-image
  • Difficulty communicating boundaries (what is acceptable to you and what is not?)
  • Thinking and acting in extremes (black/white thinking and categorizing everything in extremes: good/bad)
  • Distorted body image
  • Pleasing people and taking care of others
  • Having little self-confidence
  • Negative body perception experienced
  • Struggling with negative body image
  • Making high demands on themselves and others
  • Having difficulty expressing feelings and dealing with conflict
  • Experiencing fear of failure
  • Experiencing a lack of autonomy and identity

How to know if you have an eating disorder: Conclusion

Do you have doubts about yourself? How to know if you have an eating disorder? Do you think you might have an eating disorder? Then we have some excellent advice for you: Contact a professional.

This is because the diagnosis of an eating disorder is made by a professional, someone trained to do so.

So engage with an expert and have them examine whether you have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, or another specified eating or dietary disorder (and discuss the recovery from the eating disorder as well).

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More