Knowing the warning signs of an eating disorder is important, since the early detection of an existing or developing eating disorder will give a sufferer the help he or she needs sooner.
Detecting the warning signs may not always be easy. When someone has an eating disorder, they usually feel guilty and ashamed because of their behavior. The majority of individuals with an eating disorder do not know they have the condition and if they do, they are often initially unwilling to let go of their behavior since it is a means by which they cope with an underlying psychological issue. They will also typically take great pains to conceal the signs of their disorder.
There are physical, behavioral, and psychological signs that characteristically come with an eating disorder. If you or someone you know experiences some of the symptoms outlined below, be aware that immediate help is needed, as early intervention is crucial for a quick recovery.
It is important to note that any combination of the symptoms described below can be observed in a person with an eating disorder, and no eating disorder is entirely similar to another. It is also possible to experience a number of these signs without actually having an eating disorder. The best way to find out whether one has an eating disorder, and whether it is binge-eating disorder or BED, is to seek professional help.
Repeated Binge-Eating Episodes
If you suffer from BED, you will frequently have binge-eating episodes in which you consume large quantities of food within a short period of time. During these episodes, you will have no control of your eating and you may not have the ability to stop even when you want to.
If you have BED, you will usually have a series of particular eating habits. Among these are rapid eating, eating when you are not hungry, and going on eating even when you are stuffed, up to the point of feeling uncomfortable.
Feelings That Accompany BED
Individuals with BED typically have feelings of shame and guilt. They feel ashamed and guilty about the quantity and the manner they eat during a binge-eating episode. Binge-eating mostly takes place when one is angry, stressed, bored or distressed. Binge-eating is used as a means to cope with these problems or disturbances in one's well-being and equanimity at such times.
Behaviors That Accompany BED
Individuals with BED are ordinarily very reserved about their eating habits and decide to eat alone, because of how they feel around food.
Binge Eating Disorder Warning Signs
Behavioral Warning Signs
- Recurrent or continuous dieting by various means such as counting kilojoules, fasting, skipping meals, taking fluids instead of meals, and avoiding some food groups or forms like diary or meat
- Proof of binge eating, for example, the disappearance of large quantities of food from the fridge or cupboard, lolly wrappers in the bin, and food hoarding to prepare for binge eating
- Proof of laxative or vomiting abuse such as frequent washroom trips after or during meals
- Extreme or mandatory exercise patterns like exercising in poor weather or when injured, refusing to interrupt exercise, feeling distressed when unable to exercise, and obsessively performing several exercises
- Listing down foods that are bad and good
- Changes in food preferences, for example, saying no to some foods, disliking foods they liked before, or a sudden and random interest in eating healthy
- Pattern development or compulsive rituals when preparing or eating food, such as maintaining that meals should be at specific times or using only a specific knife or using a specific cup
- Staying away from social events where food is involved
- Avoiding meals frequently through excuses, for example by saying they have already eaten or are allergic to specific foods
- Behaviors centered on planning and preparing food, for instance, food shopping, planning and cooking food for other people but not eating themselves, being in charge of family meals, and studying recipes, cookbooks, and nutritional guides
- Strongly focusing on body weight and shape, for example by becoming interested in pictures of slim individuals or websites for weight loss and looking for dieting tips from magazines and books
- Frequent body checking behaviors, such as weighing themselves repeatedly, spending lots of time in front of the mirror, or pinching their wrists or waist
- Withdrawing socially or staying away from friends, in addition to avoiding activities they previously enjoyed
- Changing their style of clothes like putting on bigger-sized clothes
- Deceptive and surreptitious behaviors with regard to food such as discarding food secretly, eating secretly, or not telling the truth about the quantity or type of food they ate
- Slow eating, for example by using teaspoons to eat, frequent rearranging of food, or cutting food into tiny parts and consuming them one at a time
- Continually denying they are hungry
Physical Warning Signs
- Weight loss that is random or very fast
- Changes in weight that are frequent
- Sensitivity to cold, for example, feeling cold even when it's warm
- Disturbance or lack of menstrual periods in females
- Dizziness or fainting
- Feeling tired all the time and inability to undertake normal chores
- Signs of frequent vomiting like swollen cheeks or jaws, calluses on knuckles, or teeth that are damaged
Psychological Warning Signs
- Increased obsession with body weight, shape, and looks
- Dread of gaining weight
- Continuous obsession with food or activities that are connected to food
- Having a negative body image or body dissatisfaction
- Distorted body image perception, for instance when one complains of feeling, looking, or being fat when they are underweight or have a healthy weight
- Having anxiety or depression
- Being highly anxious when mealtimes arrive
- Irritability or moodiness
- Oversensitivity to criticism or comments made about their body weight, shape, exercise, or eating habits
- Having low self-esteem, for instance, having feelings of shame and worthlessness
- Self-pity, self-loathing, or strong feelings of guilt
- Feeling that life is out of control
- Feeling unable to regulate behavior when near or in response to food
- Rigid or black-and-white thinking, that is, seeing everything as either bad or good
BED Risk Factors
The following are factors that make one more prone to BED:
- Family History: If any of your parents and family members have binge-eating disorder, you have higher chances of developing the condition. This implies that inheriting genes that relate to it will increase your chances of getting the eating disorder.
- Physiological factors: A majority of individuals who suffer from binge-eating disorder have negative feelings about themselves and their accomplishments and capabilities. Binge eating can be triggered by food, stress, bad body image, or boredom.
- Dieting: A majority of individuals who suffer from BED have a record of dieting. Some of them started dieting when they were children. Restricting calories or dieting in the daytime may cause the urge to binge-eat at night, particularly if accompanied by depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem.
- Age: Binge-eating disorder usually starts in people in their early twenties or late teens, although this eating disorder can develop in individuals of any age.
Binge eating can lead to physical and psychological issues.
The following are complications that result from binge eating:
- Bad feelings regarding one's self or one's life
- Poor quality of life
- Issues interfering with one's personal life and functioning at work and in social places
- Social isolation
- Medical disorders resulting from obesity like heart disease, joint complications, type 2 diabetes, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and breathing conditions related to sleep
Binge-eating disorder can also lead to psychiatric disorders, including the following:
- Substance use disorders
- Bipolar disorder
Knowing the BED behaviors of the affected person can greatly help in the healing process.