Eating Disorders Symptoms
The following are symptoms and behaviors characteristic of the major eating disorders, along with information about the medical complications that often result. Keep in mind that not every behavior has to be present and that the individual may shift from one set of patterns to another over time, (e.g. develop bulimia after a period of anorexia) or demonstrate a combination.
Anorexia (Anorexia Nervosa)
- Obvious loss in body weight (15% or more below average weight for height/age).
- A preoccupation with being thin, while at the same time insisting that he/she is 'fat'.
- Denial of hunger, and avoiding eating meals in the presence of others.
- Obsession with nutritional values so that fats and carbohydrates can be avoided.
- Unusual food rituals - e.g. cutting tiny bites, eating foods in a particular order, etc.
Anorexia can result in osteoporosis, infertility, organ failure (especially of the heart, kidneys), etc. At its extreme it can be fatal.
- No weight qualifications - The individual may be average or overweight.
- Frequent episodes of binge eating, which may last 2 hours or more and in which more than 10,000 calories can be consumed.
- Binge episodes followed by some form of compensating behavior; in particular, vomiting, over-exercising or laxative abuse.
- Binge-purge cycles occur in response to negative feelings, particularly guilt or anger.
Bulimia can result in severe dental erosion, gastrointestinal disorders, esophageal ulcers, blood pressure and heart problems.
Compulsive Overeating (Binge Eating Disorder)
- Often overweight.
- Large amounts of food are consumed in short periods of time and usually in secret.
- Compensating efforts are not present.
- Often associated with unfulfilled needs for affection and validation. Food becomes a substitute source of comfort.
- Binges produce intense feelings of guilt and shame.
Compulsive overeating may result in diabetes, high cholesterol and those health problems associated with obesity.
The newest member of this category, originally described by Steven Bratman, M.D., in 1997
- Obsessed with eating healthy or 'natural' food - choices become increasingly restrictive.
- May go hungry rather than eat what does not meet 'healthy' criteria.
- Motivated by the desire to feel healthy or 'pure', rather than the desire to lose weight.
- Research and food preparation are time consuming and often socially limiting.
- Food selected on the basis of its 'purity', rather than taste preference.
Orthorexia may result in those medical complications that are associated with malnutrition and starvation.