Eating Disorders Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    The most common symptoms of eating disorders are denial that there is a problem, and preoccupation with food and weight Table 02 Table 03. Anorexics continue to think they look fat, even though they are bone-thin. They obsess about their weight, and constantly worry about their next encounter with food. People with bulimia have less severe weight loss than anorexics, and are less likely to suffer physical consequences. For bulimics, binge eating is not a response to intense hunger; rather, it results from depression, stress, or other feelings related to body weight, shape, or food.

    Table 2.  Symptoms of Eating Disorders

    Anorexia Bulemia
    Refusal to achieve or maintain a normal body weight Binge eating at least two times a week for three months
    Denial that there is a problem Feeling out of control during a binge
    Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even when already thin Fasting, vomiting, exercising excessively, or using laxatives and other medications to prevent weight gain at least two times a week for three months
    Feelings of self-worth that are dictated by body shape and weight Feelings of self-worth that are dictated by body shape and weight
    Amenorrhea, or absence of at least three menstrual cycles in a row ?

    Table 3.  Physical Signs of Bulimia and Anorexia

    Anorexia Bulemia
    Absence of menstrual periods Swelling of hands and feet
    Soft, downy body hair Abdominal bloating
    Weight loss of at least 25% of original weight (in children, failure to achieve age-appropriate weight) Fatigue/weakness
    Electrolyte and hormonal disturbances Puffy cheeks
    Sensitivity to cold Tooth sensitivity/dental erosion
    Bone pain/fractures Depression
    Impaired growth/short staturea Irregular menses and infertility
    Loss of scalp hair Calluses on hands
    Dry, scaly skin Enlargement of the salivary glands
    Hypotension ?
    Arrythmias ?
    Liver failure ?

    a In adolescents for whom the extreme weight loss occurs before the onset of the puberty

    Denial and preoccupation with food and body weight can lead to strange eating habits. People with anorexia may cut their food into smaller pieces, refuse to eat in front of others, or fix elaborate feasts for others without eating the meal themselves. Binge eaters and people with bulimia view the process of bingeing and purging as a way of regaining control in their lives.

  • Risk Factors

    If anyone in your family has had an eating disorder, you may be predisposed to the condition also. Female relatives are most often affected. If a girl has a sibling with an eating disorder, she is 10 to 20 times more likely to develop the illness herself.

    Social or cultural approval of thinness can lead naturally thin or naturally heavier people alike towards having an eating disorder.

    If you are involved in competitive athletics in which low body weight is promoted, you may be more likely to develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders, along with menstrual dysfunction and osteoporosis, are an increasing problem among young female athletes and dancers. Some coaches and teachers encourage calorie counting and loss of body fat so that the female athletes retain their boyish shape and competitive edge.

    If you are involved in or have been linked to dysfunctional relationships or situations that induce stress and encourage a poor self/body image, you may be predisposed to developing an eating disorder. Environmental factors either cause negative feelings, resulting in a poor body image, or put undue pressure on both men and women to be the thin “ideal.” Traumatic situations and dysfunctional relationships can lead to altered eating habits, predisposing individuals to eating disorders. As a result of these two factors, men or women may exhibit personality traits such as fear of losing control, inflexible thinking, perfectionism, low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and an intense dissatisfaction with the way they look.

    If you are employed in a profession in which thinness is a professional requirement, you may be at risk for developing an eating disorder. Society’s obsession with being thin as reflected in advertising and the media puts pressure on those in the public eye (e.g., actors, models, athletes, dancers) to remain thin.

Recommended Reading

Meet the Pharmacists

I'm Shereen A. Gharbia, PharmD. Welcome to PDR Health!

Check out my latest blog post on antidepressants

Eating Disorders Related Drugs

    Eating Disorders Related Conditions