Need help to overcome an eating disorder? Learn to identify your triggers, and resources for help, on this page.

Because of the severity of eating disorders, a comprehensive treatment team specializing in eating disorders is often essential in the healing and recovery process. Facing an eating disorder alone can be challenging, dangerous and often leads to relapse without proper support and guidance. There are safe and effective ways for someone to overcome an eating disorder.

Discover If You Have an Eating Disorder

It is important to know the warning signs of an eating disorder before discovering whether you have one. Some signs may indicate that an eating disorder is emerging or is currently being experienced. There are behavioral, physical and psychological signs which frequently supplement any eating disorder. If a person experiences numerous of the following symptoms, they should seek help immediately.

Behavioral Warning Signs

Behavioral warning signs of an eating disorder may include:

  • Constant or repetitive dieting
  • Evidence of binge eating
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative abuse
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise patterns
  • Making lists of good and bad foods
  • Avoidance of all social situations involving food or family meals
  • Strong focus on body shape and weight
  • Avoiding friends or family members
  • Change in clothing style, such as wearing baggy clothes
  • Eating very slowly
  • Continual denial of hunger

Physical Warning Signs

Physical warning signs of an eating disorder may include:

  • Sudden or rapid weight loss
  • Sensitivity to the cold
  • Loss or disturbance of menstrual periods
  • Signs of frequent vomitings, such as swollen cheeks, calluses on knuckles or damage to teeth
  • Dizziness and fatigue

Psychological Warning Signs

Psychological warning signs of an eating disorder may include:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Increased preoccupation with body shape, weight and appearance
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Extreme body dissatisfaction or negative body image
  • Feelings of being unable to control behaviors around food

Identify Eating Disorder Triggers

A trigger is something that can cause someone to engage in problematic behaviors, including eating disorder behaviors. Feeling triggered while in recovery is normal, though the response to the trigger makes a big difference in a person’s recovery. The person must first develop an awareness of their triggers, both emotional and environmental.

Emotional Triggers

Emotional eating is driven by the need to be comforted. People who live with eating disorders may binge eat to calm themselves, or they may refrain from eating to feel hunger pangs as a self-punishment. Some emotional triggers include:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Childhood habits or trauma
  • Social eating
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem

Environmental Triggers

There are also many environmental triggers that lead to poor eating behaviors. Some triggers may include:

  • Not planning meals in advance
  • Access to fast food
  • Keeping junk foods in the pantry

Finding Help for Eating Disorders

Uncontrolled eating habits or the avoidance of eating altogether can be a difficult habit to remedy alone. Some people can improve their eating habits without professional help, but other people cannot. A person should seek treatment if eating habits are impacting their quality of life. It’s important to get help as soon as possible to prevent worsened physical or psychological effects.

If you struggle with an eating disorder, remember that you’re not alone. If you have a drug or alcohol use disorder and a co-occurring eating disorder, The Recovery Village can help. Their clinicians and mental health professionals are experienced in working with people who have substance use and eating disorders. They also have facilities located across the country. To learn more, call The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Krisi Herron, LCDC
Krisi Herron is an Adjunct Psychology Professor, a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and a freelance writer who contributes to several mental health blogs. Read more

Rollen, Jennifer. “3 Tips for Coping with Triggers in Eating Disorder Recovery” National Eating Disorder Association. Published 2016. Accessed January 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.