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Pathology Atlas

Nov 29

Common Warning Symptoms of Eating Disorders


Being able to tell when to seek professional help with a compulsive behaviour or addiction is not easy. Whether it is talking to drug addiction counsellors in Kent or seeking advice for a gambling problem, knowing where to draw the like between normal and abnormal behaviour is rarely easy.

Detecting the early warning symptoms and signs of an eating disorder could be even more challenging. The reason is simple – the vast majority of eating disorders don’t just manifest overnight or simply “pop up” out of thin air. Instead, it could take several months or even years for what starts as a small and undetectable issue to become something quite dangerous.

As is the case with most compulsive behaviours and disorders, early intervention is crucial in ensuring comprehensive and rapid recovery. In most cases, people with an eating disorder either don’t realise they’re suffering from a major problem, or continue living in a state of complete denial. This is exactly why the intervention of third parties is often required, in order to make the individuals in question aware they have a problem. But as each situation is to a large extent unique, actually carrying out a conclusive diagnosis with no professional help could be impossible.

Due to this, professionals advise any concerned individuals to look out for a number of warning symptoms their friends and loved ones could exhibit. While none of the following signs confirm an eating disorder presence, they nevertheless shouldn’t be overlooked but instead encourage a consultation with an expert:

Continuous Dieting

First up, a person who seems to be actively avoiding balanced eating and is instead continuously dieting might be displaying the signs of an eating disorder. This could be anything from constantly skipping meals to not eating altogether to reducing calorie intake when there is no clear reason to do so. If it is evident that the eating habits are both unnecessary and unhealthy, there could be an issue to address.

Vomiting and Laxative Abuse

Perhaps the most common warning symptom of bulimia nervosa is when a person seems to be privately triggering vomiting after meals. This is an activity that could have incredibly serious effects of the body and needs to be addressed with no delay. Additionally, laxative abuse could also be a strong warning symptom of an eating disorder as the result is quite similar to that of vomiting.

Binge Eating

In the case of binge eaters, a common practice is hiding some amounts of food in places not likely to be seen by others, or stocking food in large quantities. Discovering hidden food in weird places around the home could be an indication of a person with an eating disorder, as could large quantities of specific food ingredients or items.

Changes in Eating Habits

Another very common symptom of an eating disorder is an unexpected and sudden change in a person’s eating habits. For instance, the person in question could out of the blue start refusing to eat specific ingredients or foods, declaring that they don’t like them while they happily ate them previously. In some cases, whole food groups could be removed from a person’s diet for no obvious reason.

Finding Excuses for Skipping Meals

Many people with an eating disorder can go to great lengths to conceal their habits from others – usually finding a number of excuses to skip meals with other people. They might say they’re allergic to certain foods, or could claim they have already eaten or just avoid social situations if there’s food involved. When it is evident that a person seems to be going to extremes to avoid eating in front of others, this could signify a problem.

Denying Hunger

Along very similar lines, people having an eating disorder would just deny feeling hungry on a very common basis, in order to both avoid eating with other people and convince themselves they do not need to eat. Even when there is no presence of an eating disorder, loss of appetite needs to be taken very seriously and brought to the attention of the experts.

Weight Gain/Loss

One of the most evident and easily detectable symptoms of an eating disorder is extreme weight gain or loss. Contrary to what many people believe, a change in weight doesn’t need to be quick in order to signify a potential problem. The very nature of an eating disorder is such that the negative impact becomes noticeable only later. Even in cases of gradual yet serious weight loss or gain, the root cause may be an eating disorder.

Body Fixations

Last up, people with an eating disorder often have an unhealthy fixation with their body weight, shape and appearance. It might become evident that the person in question is becoming obsessed with controlling their weight or constantly measuring and checking their body in front of the mirror.


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