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Behavioural Signs of Eating Disorders

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 20 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Eating Disorders anorexia Nervosa

The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa (anorexia), bulimia nervosa (bulimia) and binge eating disorder. Though these eating disorders manifest themselves in different ways, they are each based on the underlying idea that the individuals who suffer from them can not separate their emotions from their eating habits, or in fact choose to use their eating habits to express their emotions, and this skews both the way and the amount that they eat.

Behavioural Signs of Anorexia
Anorexia is an eating disorder that manifests itself through an intense fear of gaining weight and body fat, and results in behaviours such as extreme dieting, outright fasting and excessive exercising to burn calories. Most anorexics do not recognise their behaviours as dangerous and may be so rigid in their regimes that they are unwilling to consider acting in a different way. Many anorexics engage in behaviours such as:
  • Obsessively counting calories.
  • Skipping meals.
  • “Playing” with or pushing food around a plate rather than eating it.
  • Hiding food (in a napkin, under a plate, etc.) to avoid eating it.
  • Lying about having eaten in an attempt to avoid a meal or snack.
  • Avoiding social events which require eating or involve food.
  • Eating only a limited number or type of food.
  • Exercising excessively, particularly after or “to make up for” eating.
  • Dramatically losing weight.
  • Showing excessive interest in weight, body image and fasting.
  • Hiding behind loose or baggy clothing.
  • Displaying low energy levels.
  • Frequently falling ill.
  • Sleeping excessively, including during the day.
  • Showing low or no sex drive.
Behavioural Signs of Bulimia
Bulimia is an eating disorder that manifests itself through binge eating followed by purging behaviours such as vomiting or taking laxatives. Many bulimics engage in behaviours such as:
  • Binging, or eating a great amount of food in one sitting.
  • Purging, or attempting to get rid of eaten food by inducing vomiting or taking laxatives or diuretics.
  • Hiding the reserved for binges including bread, pasta, sweets, desserts, crisps and ice cream.
  • Lying about what has been eaten.
  • Purging in secret.
  • Hiding items such as laxatives or diuretics.
  • Displaying concern for body weight, body shape and overall image.
  • Frequently complaining of sore throats (brought on by repeated vomiting).
  • Frequently complaining of dental problems (also brought on by repeated vomiting).
  • Hiding behind loose or baggy clothing.
  • Showing low or no sex drive.
Behavioural Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
Those suffering from binge eating disorder will consume large amounts of food at one sitting but will not purge or rid themselves of this food afterwards. Many binge eaters engage in behaviours such as:
  • Ingesting an excessive amount of food, even if they are not hungry.
  • Eating until they feel uncomfortable or sick.
  • Hiding their eating habits due to shame or embarrassment.
  • Hiding secret stashes of food for binges.
  • “Grazing” for as long as food is available.
  • Emotional eating, or eating when they feel stressed out or overwhelmed.
  • Feeling out of control, ashamed and/or guilty both during and after a binge.
  • Expressing disgust at their eating, weight, body or appearance.
Eating disorders are diagnosed using mental health criteria but most of the signs of eating disorders are behavioural. Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder may all be recognised by the eating disorders in which sufferers engage and changing these behaviours is an important part of treatment.

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