How to recognise symptoms

Someone with an eating disorder will show signs that can be seen but may be confusing to the observer. Eating disorders can often be non-specific when they include symptoms from a number or different illnesses. Disordered eating can take many different forms. Do not dismiss a problem just because someone does not fit within a particular label. An individual will likely show some, but not all of, the signs noted below:

Behavioural Signs

  • Fear of becoming fat
  • Talking constantly about food, dieting and/or weight
  • Describing foods as good or bad
  • Dressing in baggy or layered clothing
  • Buying, hiding, or eating food in secret
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Excessive exercising to lose weight
  • Making frequent trips to the bathroom especially right after eating
  • Gaining weight but eating little in the presence of others
  • Avoidance of social events- especially those based around meals or food
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss in a short amount of time

Psychological and Emotional Signs

  • Mood shifts (irritability, depression, shame and self-hate)
  • Feeling of inadequacy
  • Social isolation
  • Self-worth determined by what is or is not eaten
  • Eating disordered behaviours are used as a coping mechanism
  • Feeling out of control with food
  • Denial that there is any problem

Physiological Signs

  • Weight gain or fluctuations not explained by medical conditions
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Swollen glands, puffy face
  • Cracked mouth
  • Broken blood vessels in eyes and face
  • Damaged tooth enamel
  • Fatigue and muscle aches
  • Dental problems
  • Dizzy spells
  • Constipation
  • Periods irregular or stop completely
  • Insomnia
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Dry skin, hair, brittle nails and teeth
  • Irregular heartbeat or other heart-related disorders
  • Sleep Apnoea (the temporary cessation of breathing during sleep- caused by an obstruction, British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association, 2016)

Comorbid Mental Health

A lot of individuals who struggle with an eating disorder may have what is known as a comorbidity. This means that alongside their eating disorder they may struggle with other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, personality disorder, etc.


To gain more of an in depth knowledge on the symptoms and early warning signs of eating disorders, you can book onto our Specialist Eating Disorder Training for Professionals

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