5 Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


An eating disorder is a mental  health condition that can seriously impact your physical health and even lead to death. One person dies about every hour  as the result of an eating disorder. Even in cases where an eating disorder may not cause extreme health problems, it does impede your ability to live a normal life and drastically affect mental health. While not all individuals have the same signs and symptoms (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder all affect people differently), here are five warning signs that can be indicative of an eating disorder.

1. Avoiding Eating in Front of Others

No matter what type of eating disorder someone has, it’s common for individuals who are struggling with body image to feel uncomfortable eating in front of other people. They may refuse to eat meals with others, not eat snacks or treats at parties, or in some cases, come up with excuses not to go out to events where food will be present.  

2. Extreme Weight Loss

A common and easily recognizable sign of anorexia is extreme weight loss. If you have a loved one who has recently lost a lot of weight without explanation, it may be worth researching additional signs of anorexia. This symptom, when paired with additional signs , is one of the foremost indicators that someone may be struggling with anorexia.

On the other hand, bulimia and binge-eating disorder can be more difficult to detect. Often, people with bulimia can maintain a seemingly healthy weight, and people with binge-eating disorder may diet frequently without losing weight.

3. Excessive Exercise

Another sign of both anorexia and bulimia is excessive exercise. People with eating disorders often exercise compulsively, meaning they won’t let anything stop them from completing their exercise routine, including bad weather, illness, and special occasions. Some people struggling with these eating disorders may even feel the need to exercise in the middle of the night and other odd times.

4. Wearing Baggy Clothes to Hide the Body

Individuals struggling with body image tend to wear baggy clothes to hide their bodies, either because they don’t want people to notice the extreme changes in their weight or because they are ashamed of how they look. Much like other symptoms in this list, a single symptom does not characterize an eating disorder, but when combined with additional signs it can be cause for concern.

5. Hoarding Food or Hiding it In Strange Places

People struggling with binge-eating disorder often hoard food or hide it in strange places. If you notice that your loved one hides food frequently or hoards large amounts of food, it may warrant a discussion to see if there is cause for concern.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, know that there is hope. For immediate help, you can reach the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders at 630-577-1330. You can also schedule an appointment to speak with your doctor and/or psychiatrist  to figure out which treatment options are best suited for you or your loved one. 

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