How to Know If You Have an Eating Disorder

Do you find yourself comparing your body to others? Are you concerned about what you eat so much that you just don’t? Are you eating a lot and feeling out of control? Maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “I think I have an eating disorder,” but you don’t know where to start to address it.

Before considering if you have an eating disorder, it’s important to identify the different types of disorders that are known and recognized by the medical community.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), clinical eating disorders encompass binge eating, chronic dieting, fasting or purging, and the use of laxatives to control weight.


How to Know If You Have an Eating Disorder

Most people have heard of anorexia and bulimia, but there are several more eating disorders, each with its own set of symptoms.

Eating disorders are classified as mental disorders in standard medical manuals (ICD-10, DSM-5) and include the following:

Commonly known as “anorexia,” this is an eating disorder characterized by a fear of gaining weight and a strong desire to be thin, manifesting itself in methods of food restriction. Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight when, in reality, they can be either at a proper weight or, more commonly, underweight.
The consumption of excessively large amounts of foods in one sitting without purging is known as binge eating or compulsive overeating. People who have a binge eating disorder are known to compulsively and frequently eat excessive amounts of food in a short time. Binge eaters use food and its consumption to cope with stress and hide from negative emotions and other issues in their lives. While binge eaters are known to feel guilty after eating, they do not purge.
This condition is more like a combination of anorexia and compulsive overeating. People with bulimia suffer from the same body image issues as those with anorexia, but instead of shunning food, they binge eat. The difference is that those with bulimia will purge after eating.
Below are other conditions that are not considered to be official eating disorders with a diagnosis or classification. Often known by colloquial or media-coined non-medical names, these disorders have gained more notoriety in the news and are beginning to be studied by medical communities worldwide. These disorders include:
People with type 1 diabetes have this disorder. With this condition, they restrict their insulin dosage for the purpose of weight loss.
This is the condition in which people intentionally restrict food calories to make room for alcoholic drink calories, as well as to increase intoxication.
People with this condition have a passion for gourmet food, developed after an injury to the right frontal lobe of the brain. This can cause them to eat rich foods excessively, leading to obesity.
Commonly referred to as reverse anorexia, this is a disorder usually found in men who experience constant worries and obsessions about being too small or underdeveloped, leading to changes in eating habits.
Unlike people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, individuals with orthorexia nervosa are characterized as having an excessive preoccupation with eating healthy foods.
While not truly classified as an eating disorder, Prader-Willi Syndrome is a serious and rare genetic disorder. It results in physical and mental problems, including a sense of insatiability. This constant state of hunger frequently leads to morbid obesity for those with this condition.
Women who are concerned with weight gain during pregnancy and act on those concerns are said to have pregorexia. Pregorexia, combining the words “pregnant” and “anorexia,” is the condition in which a pregnant woman obsesses over her weight and then exercises excessively while restricting calorie intake, even if that puts the baby at risk.
As you can see, there are many types of disorders and there are symptoms that cross over from one disorder to another. It is helpful when trying to figure out whether or not you have an eating disorder that you ask yourself if you have one or any combination of the following warning signs. If so, you may have an eating disorder and should seek out assistance from your healthcare provider. Common symptoms of eating disorders include:

  • Constant dieting, food avoidance
  • Excessive food consumption
  • Purging via vomiting or laxative abuse
  • Strong focus on body shape, size, and weight
  • Repetitive, obsessive visual body checking
  • Obsessive rituals around food preparation and/or consumption
  • Intense fear related to body image
  • Increased sensitivity to criticism or comments about body or eating habits
  • Depression, moodiness, low self-esteem, anxiety
  • Distorted body image
How to Know If You Have an Eating Disorder
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