Eating Disorder Symptoms

When many people picture an eating disorder, they tend to imagine someone who significantly limits their food intake or engages in self-induced vomiting. However, there are several different types of eating disorders in our society. There is an estimated 35 million Americans suffering from eating disorders, ranging from food aversion to body dissatisfaction.

Without a full understanding of different types of feeding and eating disorders, it can be difficult to notice warning signs and symptoms. The list provided below covers an array of common eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is typically defined as restricting food intake in an attempt to lose weight. This goes far beyond dieting and is considered a psychological disorder where the desire to lose weight often becomes an obsession. Most women who are diagnosed with anorexia will experience body image issues as well.

In America, approximately 1 out of every 200 women will struggle with anorexia nervosa. This disorder has the second highest mortality rate of all psychological disorders (second to opioid use), with nearly 35% of women dying due to complications from the disorder.

Anorexia can have dangerous effects on a person’s mental and physical health. Some of the effects include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Osteoporosis
  • Anemia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low blood pressure

In most cases, anorexia can be defined by an extreme fear of gaining weight. This can lead to unhealthy and even dangerous levels of weight loss.

Bulimia Nervosa

Rather than restricting food, as displayed in anorexia, bulimia involves binging large amounts of food, and then compensating for the binge by either purging, starving, excessive exercise or laxative abuse.

It is estimated that over 4 million people suffer from bulimia nervosa in the United States today. In addition to suffering from Bulimia, nearly 50% of people also struggle with an addictive disorder and over 30% will engage in self-harm behaviors, as well.

Several physical complications often occur during bulimia. It is recommended that those suffering from Bulimia receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible. Without treatment, bulimia may result in:

  • Anemia
  • Ruptures in the esophagus
  • Ulcers
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart failure

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating consists of recurring episodes compulsive overeating. Typically, someone suffering from Binge Eating Disorder will consume large amounts of food over a short amount of time and has a loss of control over their eating behaviors. Unlike bulimia, binging is not associated with a compensatory behavior.

It is estimated that over 2.5 million people in the United States have binge eating disorder. While BED is most common among women, nearly 2% of men have dealt with BED at some point in their life.

If binge eating is not treated, it could lead to several health complications. Some of the health impacts of binge eating can include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Heart disease


OSFED stands for Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder and is frequently used to define eating disorder cases that do not meet the full criteria to be considered anorexia, bulimia or another recognized eating disorder. OSFED can be just as serious as any other eating disorder and needs to be treated to avoid serious health complications.


Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder or ARFID is like anorexia in that it also involves limiting amounts and certain foods. But, unlike anorexia, ARFID does not involve body image issues. Many children go through phases of picky eating, however; someone with ARFID does not consume the proper number of calories needed to grow and develop properly; in adults, it can make it difficult to maintain basic body function. ARFID can cause the body to slow down processes in an effort to conserve energy, which can result in serious medical consequences.

Purging Disorder

Purging disorder is the use of either pills or vomiting after as a means of weight control. In some instances, the use of laxatives or diuretics can replace the act of vomiting. Unlike anorexia, people who are diagnosed with purging disorder are typically a normal weight. It also differs from bulimia in that someone suffering from purging disorder does not typically engage in binge-eating before purging.

Anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder are typically associated with purging disorder as well. Currently, purging disorder is not recognized as an eating disorder and falls under the category of OSFED. Despite this categorization, purging disorder still comes with its own set of health concerns. Purging has been known to cause:

  • Esophageal tears
  • Bowel dysfunctions
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder
  • Malnutrition

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder that involves an obsession with one’s appearance. Someone suffering from body dysmorphic disorder may spend a lot of time attempting to cover their perceived flaws with either makeup, cosmetic products, or even plastic surgery.

People with BDD often show some of these signs:

  • Constantly comparing their appearance with others
  • Frequently asking others for reassurance
  • Perfectionist habits
  • Believe that people mock their appearance

The disorder often goes undiagnosed or is diagnosed incorrectly due to a couple of main reasons. First, its causes are not entirely known. BDD may be due to a variety of factors including genetics, brain chemicals, and the environment. Second, because of its parallel with other problems like OCD and eating disorders, it is more difficult to make completely accurate diagnoses. Treatment is the best process to help cure BDD, as the disorder typically does not leave on its own. If left untreated, BDD could get worse over time, leading to anxiety and the possibility of suicidal thoughts.

Compulsive Exercise 

Compulsive exercise involves more than a simple desire to stay fit. Rather, compulsive exercise causes extreme anxiety, depression, and irritability at the thought of missing a workout. In most cases, the urge to workout will often affect a person’s social skills and cause them to become withdrawn.

Some of the consequences of compulsive exercise could include:

  • Consistent soreness and joint pain
  • Decrease of bone density
  • Altered heart rate
  • Increased chance of injury

With all of these eating disorders, it is important to remember that treatment is the fastest way to a full recovery. If you are concerned about yourself of a loved one, please reach out to our admissions team to have a conversation.

At Toledo Center, we can help you achieve recovery and sustained freedom from anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. We understand the support and guidance needed for recovery. Our eating disorder treatment program is focused on the individual, not the symptoms. Our therapists work with clients to help them identify and address the issues contributing to their eating disorder, ultimately leading to healing. If you or your loved one has eating disorder symptoms, contact our admissions team today for more information.


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