Signs you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder

By Monique Richard, MS, RDN, LDN

Eating disorders are complex, multi-faceted, and multi-layered. Often, they have nothing to do with food itself but food becomes a way to control, hide, manipulate, avoid, and disguise the root of the problem. Eating disorders often become their own entity, an obsession, a compulsion, and a way of life that the person does not want to be associated with, yet does not want to, or cannot, let go of.

If you believe you or a loved one may have an eating disorder, it is important to be supportive and not confrontational. Expressing feelings and listening often help to communicate the depth of the problem and explore the consequences.

A Place of Healing has pre-screened professionals that can help and more information and help can be found at national organizations such as the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Some signs that may be helpful in identifying an eating disorder are listed below. Anorexia Nervosa is often characterized by the deprivation and physical restriction of food.

Signs and symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa include:

  • obsession with being thin, weight
  • obsession with food-related topics, but not eating
  • unrealistic, negative, or distorted body image
  • refusal/rejection of food, beverages or voicing hunger cues
  • irritability
  • withdrawal, easily distracted
  • excessive exercise
  • physical changes such as loss of menstrual cycle, thinning or loss of hair, consistently cold, low blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm, dry skin, constipation, abdominal pain, fatigue

Bulimia Nervosa is categorized as episodes of binging and purging, essentially eating large quantities of food at one time followed by extreme episodes of ridding that food from the body either by vomiting, exercise, laxatives, or a combination. Often the signs of anorexia nervosa are common in bulimia as well.

Signs and symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa may include:

  • eating large quantities of food at one time often until discomfort or pain is experienced
  • self-induced vomiting
  • use of laxatives, or manipulation of other forms of excreting the body of food consumed
  • unrealistic, negative, or distorted body image
  • excessive exercise
  • erosion of tooth enamel, damaged gums
  • throat, mouth, knuckle, finger sores or scarring from vomiting
  • physical changes such as loss of menstrual cycle, thinning or loss of hair, consistently cold, low blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm, dry skin, constipation, abdominal pain, fatigue
  • obsession with dieting, fasting
  • swollen or inflamed cheeks and/or salivary glands

Source: www.mayoclinic.com Accessed December 3, 2013.


Monique Richard is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and licensed dietitian nutritionist (LDN) with a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition completed through the coordinated program at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree with a concentration in dietetics and minor in psychology from Middle Tennessee State University. READ FULL BIO  HERE.

Posted in Eating Disorders