Let’s Get Real About Eating Disorder Warning Signs and Symptoms

As part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW), we’re blogging to increase awareness about eating disorders. Let’s Get Real!

Knowing the warning signs and symptoms of an eating disorder is the first step to getting help, whether that help is for yourself, a friend or a loved one. We’ve compiled a few of the common red flags you should be looking for.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that this is not a checklist. Rarely will someone show all these signs and symptoms at one time. Signs and symptoms don’t always fit into categorical boxes either. This is merely a general list that could indicate a problem.

Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms

  • Frequent dieting
  • Preoccupation with calories, fat grams, carbohydrates, etc.
  • Obsession with body size/shape
  • Excessively observing oneself in the mirror to find perceived flaws
  • Avoiding meals or eating small portions
  • Withdrawing from family, friends and usual activities
  • Excessively chewing food
  • Discomfort eating in public
  • Refusing to eat certain foods or categories of foods
  • Mood swings

Physical signs and symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Feeling cold constantly
  • Sleep problems
  • Stomach cramps or other gastrointestinal issues
  • Fluctuations in weight, both up and down
  • Yellow skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired immune system
  • Dry skin and hair and brittle nails
  • Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints as a result of induced vomiting
  • Enamel erosion, cavities, tooth sensitivity and other dental problems
  • Fine body hair
  • Poor wound healing

There are certain signs and symptoms that are specific to different types of eating disorders. To learn more, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website.

If you notice these warning signs in yourself or loved one, call Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center at 402.472.5000. We offer many treatment services for eating disorders and can provide counsel if you’re calling to help a loved one. Visit https://health.unl.edu/caps/eatingdisorders to learn more.

To explore educational videos, articles and resources for body image concerns, visit https://health.unl.edu/caps/bodyimage.


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