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 can also suffer from an eating disorder. Anyone with this medical/psychological condition has to be treated as soon as possible to prevent serious health complications. Early detection and treatment can literally save lives.
There are certain signs and symptoms that can indicate if a person has an eating disorder. The most common ones are listed below. If you observe these on your own, or in someone you know, there is a possibility that you or that person may need professional help. Talk to your parents, a wellness counselor, or an adult you trust to help you get properly diagnosed and assessed, and when needed, treated.
Physical symptoms and signs
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 can be within the normal range. The person feels cold easily.
Frequent experience of abdominal pain, constipation, acid reflux and other digestive issues
Feeling dizzy and sometimes fainting
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Either lethargy or extra energy, or alternating experiences of these two other states
Irregularities in the menstrual period
Dental issues (for example, cavities, tooth discoloration and tooth sensitivity)
Dry skin, hair and nails. The individual may also have thinning hair and brittle nails. She gets the flu and common infections easily.
Swollen salivary glands (across the neck and jaw regions )
Dressing in layers or loose clothes to disguise weight loss (and 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 is fat or overweight, even though it’s evidently not true
Frequently saying that she is not hungry, such as during meal times when she ought to be hungry
Skipping meals or eating very little during meals
Occasionally binge-eating (eating a large amount of food in a brief period of time)
Purging. This is done by going to the toilet during or after meals, nausea, or using laxatives and diuretics.
Unusual food rituals, such as chewing too, not letting 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 odd places
Excessive working out
Often looking in the mirror to check her appearance
Difficulty sleeping or getting a good night’s sleep
Emotional symptoms and signs
Fears eating in public, or feels uncomfortable when eating with other people
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 picture of her body
Might have poor self-esteem
The existence of the signs and symptoms doesn’t indicate with absolute certainty that the person does have an eating disorder. Only a professional medical practitioner can properly diagnose the condition, so it is best to see one as soon as possible.