7 Signs You Might Have an Eating Disorder

“I’m in recovery from an eating disorder. When I say that, people often immediately think that means that I used to be extremely thin. That’s not the case at all,” says Crisis Counselor Kait Vanderlaan.

Kait is certainly not alone. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates that approximately 10% of the population will deal with some sort of eating disorder during their lifetime. Just like mental illness, anyone can be affected by an eating disorder.

Fifty percent of people texting into Crisis Text Line about eating disorders identified as LGBTQ+. According to Crisis Trends, these conversations were also 94% more likely to include mentions of bullying.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V), there are five categories of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: purposefully restricting calories out of the fear of gaining weight.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: eating to excess over a short period of time (known as binge eating), followed by some sort of purging behavior, such as induced vomiting, laxative use, extreme dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: engaging in multiple episodes of binge eating without any purging behaviors. Unlike in bulimia, the binge eating episodes are not part of an attempt to control weight.
  • Avoid Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): being super restrictive in what you eat, to the point that you struggle to reach the required nutritional amounts for basic functioning.
  • Other Specified or Eating Disorder (OSFED): applies to all other patterns of disordered eating that may not fit the clinical definitions listed above.

Although these disorders can manifest differently, they can share a couple of the same signs.

These seven signs may mean you are struggling with an eating disorder. If these signs seem familiar, reach out for help. You should always see a medical professional to get a formal diagnosis.

  1. You struggle to eat in front of others. Eating disorders make it difficult to engage with food in a healthy way. That might mean having a hard time eating in public or feeling like you need to hide the food that you’re eating.
  2. You develop rituals based around eating. One of the biggest issues for those struggling with an eating disorder is that they feel a need for control over the way they eat. It’s good to have a routine around meals, like always starting dinner with a salad. It’s a problem when you’re unable to eat without going through a specific routine.
  3. You’re losing and gaining weight rapidly. With disordered eating, it’s hard for the body to retain the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy weight. In turn, the fluctuation in weight can be incredibly triggering for people who are already dissatisfied with how their body looks.
  4. You’re experiencing body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is defined as an obsession with perceived flaws in your physical appearance. Although it’s not present in all types, body dysmorphia is often a key trigger in leading to the development of disordered eating.
  5. You’re constantly eliminating food groups or experimenting with new diet trends. Although some people need to avoid certain foods for health reasons, it’s generally important to incorporate variety into your diet. When you’re constantly removing foods from your diet in an effort to “gain control” of your body it’s worth re-thinking your approach.
  6. You struggle to stay warm, even when it’s hot outside. Fat is good. It exists to help keep our bodies warm. When there’s inadequate nutrition for fat cells, it’s common for people to feel a deep cold that they can’t shake.
  7. Your stomach constantly hurts. Lack of adequate nutrition also affects the gastrointestinal system. While the specific symptoms can vary from person to person, some common ones include cramps, acid reflux, and constipation are common.
  8. If you recognize any of these signs in yourself or someone you know, reach out for help. You don’t have to struggle alone. Talk with a doctor or text HOME to 741741. We are here to support you.
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