What do Eating Disorders Look Like?
Eating disorders are complex and varied. Weight is not an indicator of the presence of an eating disorder. One person may experience multiple types of eating disorders over time. Eating disorders are not about the food. Eating disorders cause rapid, sometimes irreversible physical damage, so need to be treated quickly and aggressively to minimize long term effects. Labs my look “normal” in the presence of an eating disorder. If you suspect the presence of an eating disorder, seek expert advice as quickly as possible.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms to look for if you are concerned that you or someone you care about has an eating disorder:

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Intense fear of gaining weight; refusal to maintain normal weight
  • Restriction of calories
  • Unusual eating habits
  • Vigorous or compulsive exercise/movement
  • Feeling cold all the time

Physical Effects of Anorexia

  • Sallow complexion, dry skin, hair loss, hollow facial features
  • Irregular or ceased menses, infertility
  • Osteoporosis
  • Changes in metabolism and energy
  • Cardiac problems, low blood pressure, fatigue, dizziness

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Frequent episodes of binge eating without weight gain
  • Guilt, shame, fear of gaining weight
  • Vomiting, taking laxatives, fasting, excessive exercising
  • Hoarding or stealing of food
  • Going to the bathroom after meals

Physical Effects of Bulimia

  • Damaged teeth, swollen cheeks
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle spasms and weakness
  • Headache, fatigue
  • Digestive, kidney problems

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Eating alone, eating until feeling uncomfortable
  • Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, guilty about overeating
  • Behavior expressed several times a week for several months

Physical Effects of Binge Eating Disorder

  • Disease related to obesity such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, gall bladder disease and several forms of cancer
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Digestive problems
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Irregular menstrual cycle in women


  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
  • Sudden refusal to eat foods. A person with ARFID may no longer eat food that they ate previously
  • Fear of choking or vomiting
  • No appetite for no known reason
  • Very slow eating
  • Difficulty eating meals with family or friends
  • Signs of ARFID are similar to those of Anorexia

Physical Effects of ARFID

  • In children, no longer gaining weight at an appropriate rate or losing weight
  • Weigh loss in adults
  • Developmental delays in children
  • Stunted growth in children
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Cardiac problems
  • Impaired immunity

Could I have an Eating Disorder?
If one or more of these symptoms sound familiar, an evaluation by an experienced eating disorder professional could help you or your loved one find the path to a healthier life:

A marked increase and /or decrease in weight not related to a medical condition

The development of abnormal eating habits

An intense preoccupation with weight not related to a medical condition

An intense preoccupation with appearance and body image

Compulsive or excessive exercising

Irritability when topics of weight, food and/or meals are discussed.

Bathroom use immediately following mealtimes

Conscious effort to maintain continual movement

Excessive use of breath fresheners and gum

Changes in fluid consumption

Wearing baggy clothes to hide body

Wearing seasonally inappropriate clothes to keep warm

Feeling cold all the time