September 23, 2020

Do I Have an Eating Disorder? Anorexia, Bulimia, and More

How Do You Know If You Have an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are illnesses that involve severe disturbances in your eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically are preoccupied with food and their weight. If you think you may have an eating disorder, it’s important not to self-diagnose. Make sure to talk with your doctor, who’ll use physical and psychological evaluations to determine if you do have an eating disorder. 

Signs Someone Has an Eating Disorder

People with eating disorders often show signs that there’s a problem. No single test can identify the disorder, as many factors need to be considered. Here are some of the common signs of an eating disorder:

  • Purging for weight control. Purging, a common characteristic of anorexia, includes self-induced vomiting and using over-the-counter medications like laxatives or diuretics. It can also include the use of enemas. 
  • Obsession with food, calories, and dieting. People with anorexia constantly worry about how many calories they’re taking in. This worry over gaining weight contributes to obsessions with food and a tendency to practice extreme, unhealthy dieting.
  • Changes in mood and emotional state. People with anorexia often have symptoms of other conditions as well, including depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, perfectionism, and impulsivity. They also can become highly sensitive to criticism, failure, and mistakes. It’s also common for them to not find pleasure in activities that are usually enjoyable for most. 
  • Distorted body image. The way their bodies are shaped and attractiveness are critical concerns for people with anorexia. A classic characteristic of anorexia is thinking that you’re larger than you actually are. Repeated body checking, including looking in the mirror, checking body measurements, and pinching the fat on certain parts of your body, are all examples of behaviors associated with people who are anorexic.
  • Excessive exercise. Many people with anorexia exercise excessively to lose weight. One study of 165 participants showed that 45% of those with eating disorders also exercised an excessive amount. Walking, fidgeting, and standing more frequently are also commonly seen with anorexia.

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What Eating Disorder Do I Have?

In the sections that follow, we’ll outline the different kinds of eating disorders, which can help you identify what kind of eating disorder you may have.

Do I Have Anorexia?

There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa and symptoms can vary depending on the seriousness of the disorder and the specific subtype. The restricting type is characterized by the severe limitation of food intake as the primary means of weight loss. The binge-eating/purge type is characterized by self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic use, and/or excessive exercise to compensate for food eaten beforehand.

Do I Have Bulimia?

Bulimia tends to develop during adolescence and early adulthood and is more common in women than in men. People with bulimia usually eat large amounts of food in a specific period of time. Each binge eating episode continues until the person is painfully full. Afterward, they’ll attempt to purge to compensate for the calories consumed. 

Do I Have Binge Eating Disorder?

People with binge eating disorder have similar symptoms to those who have bulimia. They’ll eat unusually large amounts of food in relatively short periods of time and feel a lack of control during binges. People with this disorder don’t restrict calories or use purging behaviors. If you feel like you might have binge eating disorder, it’s recommended that you seek professional help. 

Learn More About Eating Disorders with Baptist Health

Eating disorders are serious conditions that can greatly affect your health if not treated. If you want to learn more about eating disorders, or feel like you might have one of the disorders described above, make an appointment with a Baptist Health provider today.

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