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Eating Disorders and the Physical Signs

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 18 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Eating Disorders anorexia bulimia

Individuals suffering from eating disorders are often highly secretive about their thoughts and behaviours but there are a variety of physical signs that become evident if an eating disorder is affecting an individual’s health. Unfortunately, if these signs become obvious it means that an individual has already put his or her health at risk. Though they may not see it, individuals who are showing physical signs of an eating disorder require professional help immediately.

Physical Signs of Anorexia
Anorexics run the risk of starving themselves, and indeed those suffering from a severe form of the disorder may seem to actually welcome this state, so the health risks of anorexia are akin to starvation. Severe weight loss (to a total body weight that is at least 15% less than what would be normal for a given height and age), dry hair, nails and skin, a loss of hair or nails, anaemia (which leads to frequent and easy bruising), a loss of muscle mass (reducing their strength and athletic abilities), a loss of menstrual periods, joint pain and osteoporosis/brittle bones (leading to easy bone breaks) are all associated with anorexia.

Anorexics may also become extremely sensitive to cold and feel cold all the time, with blue fingers, toes and/or lips due to a faltering circulation system. They may even sprout fine white hairs known as lanugo, which is their bodies’ attempt to insulate themselves in the absence of body fat. Damage to the heart, liver and kidneys may also occur in severe cases of anorexia, all of which could lead to death.

Physical Signs of Bulimia
Unlike anorexics, bulimics tend to be slightly overweight due to their binges and a number of the physical signs indicative of bulimia are related to the binge and purge cycle. Many bulimics frequently suffer from sore throats and dental issues such as swollen glands, cavities, gingivitis, dry mouth and general mouth infections due to frequent vomiting. This vomiting may lead to scarring of the fingers (used for inducing a purge) as well. In addition to constipation and diarrhoea, both of which can be brought about by binges, bulimics may also induce electrolyte imbalances in their bodies due to binging and purging. This imbalance occurs when the required amounts of sodium and potassium are either not met or are over-supplied. This imbalance can lead to damage of the heart muscle and/or heart attacks. Bulimics also tend to be susceptible to depression and to changing behaviours and becoming anorexic.

Physical Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
Due to overeating and resulting obesity, binge eaters put themselves at risk for a wide variety of health conditions and diseases. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, joint and muscle pain and sleep apnea are all common physical signs associated with binge eating disorder. The large amounts of food consumed may also lead to stomach and gastrointestinal pain, gum infections and cavities due to large amounts of sugar and acid consumed, and constipation or diarrhoea. Unfortunately, just because binge eaters consume a vast amount of food does not mean that they always ingest recommended daily intakes of necessary vitamins and minerals, and health problems can result from specific deficiencies as well.

A number of physical signs can indicate an eating disorder, even if the individual suffering will not admit to one on his or her own. For further information on the physical signs of eating disorders, and how to get help for someone who is risk their own health, contact a GP, private mental health professional or from the Eating Disorders Association and/or National Centre for Eating Disorder.

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[Add a Comment]
@Olivia McG - it sounds to me as though you should visit your GP who will ask a series of questions to establish whether you have an eating issue. If you restrict your food intake it sounds as though you may.
Elle - 18-May-18 @ 12:49 PM
I am 14 years old, 4'10.25" and i weigh around 79 pounds. i feel fat 24/7 and i restrict severely. i think i am even developing lanugo on my arms. i dont know if i have an eating disorder. i speak to my friend daily about because she has anorexia, and she strongly believes i have it. but i dont know.im not thin enough to have an ed despite what my friends say. (they say im too skinny) im also always cold
Olivia McG - 18-May-18 @ 5:10 AM
Emily Jane- Your Question:
These comments are ridiculous. Some but not all.No, if you skip a few meals you don't have an eating disorder, you will KNOW when you have one, because you're so intent on not having one. A lot of an eating disorder is about the mind, to eat any meals I need optimum conditions, I have to smoke first, it has to be as quiet and non stressful as possible. Behaviours are diagnostic criteria but they aren't the be all and end all, because your mind is what feels the true wrath of it.Now think, do you really have an eating disorder, or do you just want one? Do you feel terrified even drinking calories, you say you skip meals, but I have had an eating disorder for 10 years and am 20 years old, I've never "skipped" a meal in my life, I mean, I eat once a day, but there is no meals for me. I don't associate food with life, I eat because I have to, I eat when I feel weak. So many people feel mildly uncomfortable with their body and therefore imagine how great it would be to be able to not eat and have that control, but it's not that fantastic. When you're sectioned at 15 years old, 100 miles away from your family, and unable to even go out for a visit because you won't eat half of a potato, then you see that there's no control involved. You're the one most out of control. I might be skinny now, but I lost weight so quickly I have excess skin everywhere, I get cold a lot, and this might sound minor, but when you walk around and see skin hang like an old woman off your bones, that's not the attractive skinny you're imagining is it? Being boney, guys don't like that, having small hairs all over your body because you're cold, you're too tired to even go and show your body off, you meet a really hot guy and embarrassingly faint on him in intercourse, your hair falls out, it's really very unattractive.You know what, I'm skinny, but I have little teeth left, I can't sleep because I choke on acid going into my lungs from vomiting, my hairs falling out so it had to be up in a messy bun to hide it, my skin is blotchy, my fingers are blue, I can literally fold my skin, I have no boobs any more, guys just see me as a child. Just think, don't get in, because you might not get out.

Our Response:
I am very sorry to hear this. Thank you for your comments and objective/reaslistic way of looking at the illness and the help it may offer others. I hope you find a road to recovery soon.
EatingDisorderExpert - 28-Aug-15 @ 12:03 PM
These comments are ridiculous. Some but not all. No, if you skip a few meals you don't have an eating disorder, you will KNOW when you have one, because you're so intent on not having one. A lot of an eating disorder is about the mind, to eat any meals I need optimum conditions, I have to smoke first, it has to be as quiet and non stressful as possible. Behaviours are diagnostic criteria but they aren't the be all and end all, because your mind is what feels the true wrath of it. Now think, do you really have an eating disorder, or do you just want one? Do you feel terrified even drinking calories, you say you skip meals, but I have had an eating disorder for 10 years and am 20 years old, I've never "skipped" a meal in my life, I mean, I eat once a day, but there is no meals for me. I don't associate food with life, I eat because I have to, I eat when I feel weak. So many people feel mildly uncomfortable with their body and therefore imagine how great it would be to be able to not eat and have that control, but it's not that fantastic. When you're sectioned at 15 years old, 100 miles away from your family, and unable to even go out for a visit because you won't eat half of a potato, then you see that there's no control involved. You're the one most out of control. I might be skinny now, but I lost weight so quickly I have excess skin everywhere, I get cold a lot, and this might sound minor, but when you walk around and see skin hang like an old woman off your bones, that's not the attractive skinny you're imagining is it? Being boney, guys don't like that, having small hairs all over your body because you're cold, you're too tired to even go and show your body off, you meet a really hot guy and embarrassingly faint on him in intercourse, your hair falls out, it's really very unattractive. You know what, I'm skinny, but I have little teeth left, I can't sleep because I choke on acid going into my lungs from vomiting, my hairs falling out so it had to be up in a messy bun to hide it, my skin is blotchy, my fingers are blue, I can literally fold my skin, I have no boobs any more, guys just see me as a child. Just think, don't get in, because you might not get out.
Emily Jane - 27-Aug-15 @ 2:52 PM
These comments are ridiculous. Some but not all. No, if you skip a few meals you don't have an eating disorder, you will KNOW when you have one, because you're so intent on not having one. A lot of an eating disorder is about the mind, to eat any meals I need optimum conditions, I have to smoke first, it has to be as quiet and non stressful as possible. Behaviours are diagnostic criteria but they aren't the be all and end all, because your mind is what feels the true wrath of it. Now think, do you really have an eating disorder, or do you just want one? Do you feel terrified even drinking calories, you say you skip meals, but I have had an eating disorder for 10 years and am 20 years old, I've never "skipped" a meal in my life, I mean, I eat once a day, but there is no meals for me. I don't associate food with life, I eat because I have to, I eat when I feel weak. So many people feel mildly uncomfortable with their body and therefore imagine how great it would be to be able to not eat and have that control, but it's not that fantastic. When you're sectioned at 15 years old, 100 miles away from your family, and unable to even go out for a visit because you won't eat half of a potato, then you see that there's no control involved. You're the one most out of control. I might be skinny now, but I lost weight so quickly I have excess skin everywhere, I get cold a lot, and this might sound minor, but when you walk around and see skin hang like an old woman off your bones, that's not the attractive skinny you're imagining is it? Being boney, guys don't like that, having small hairs all over your body because you're cold, you're too tired to even go and show your body off, you meet a really hot guy and embarrassingly faint on him in intercourse, your hair falls out, it's really very unattractive. You know what, I'm skinny, but I have little teeth left, I can't sleep because I choke on acid going into my lungs from vomiting, my hairs falling out so it had to be up in a messy bun to hide it, my skin is blotchy, my fingers are blue, I can literally fold my skin, I have no boobs any more, guys just see me as a child. Just think, don't get in, because you might not get out.
Emily Jane - 27-Aug-15 @ 2:02 PM
Im bulimic im healthy looking long hair healthy body maybe bit on the frail side but passable.Ive been on drips for low potassium and being very dehydrated. My teeth arnt what they used to be.Very yellow and rotting away on the backs.My fingers arnt scarred at all, maybe cos i dont need to use my hands but because my body thinks i naturally need to throw up after eating. Im all alone now.I got no family, i got no friends.I cant go a day without alcohol because it helps between the binging and purging for a few minutes.My work colleagues think little of ke cos they dont believe im fit enough to do a god damned job but i guess i cant cos i cant focus and got zero concentration.I can only cope with little responsibilty or else my anxieties take over. Every day is a chore. I meverwanted to be thin.All i wanted was a family i can sit with and eat meals at the table with my children and not have food and body issue worries but here i am today with no want for children, no want for a family, no want for any dreams or goal i am just floating in my own misery. Im trying to go to a group now but that wont fix me.Ive been this way for 10 years unhelped, undiagnosed. This to me is the norm that ive tried all my strength the defeat but there is no cure.im living but im not really alive.My mum tells me im just a stranger to her that she doesnt want to know, she just wants her girl back but reality is that shes dead.She threw me out of her house a few years ago. No one wants to know you when youre eating disordered.There are more important things in life tha being thin.If only people would understand that but sadly the world is too corrupt and the weaker people will not listen to such a fact holds so much common sense.Best wishes goes to these people as they are probably more mentally ill than i am. PEACE!
Incognito - 31-Mar-15 @ 12:40 AM
I have been feeling very sick lately. I wake up feeling sick. I try to eat, and i feel sick. My jaws crack when i chew. I leave alot of my food when i eat. I never drink fluids regularly, i only take drinks if in thirsty. I constantly feel like i have a headache, and i do t skip meals because i want to. I just dont feel hungry and when i do i feel sick. i eat at most a meal and a cream bar a day. Help me in not sure what it is. People have told me they think i have an eating disorder, but i don't know why they think that. help me asp.
helpmeidkwhatswrong - 5-Sep-14 @ 10:25 AM
I AM 9 STONE 3 I WANT LOSE ABOUT 2STONE I AM 5 FOOT 3 I fell fat I have always been 7 stone
nessie - 8-Feb-14 @ 8:05 PM
I feel that my hair is starting to fall out become I always see my hair what ever I do infront of me. I get stomach pains and feel like I can't breathe! Is this an eating disorder also I skip lunch!!
Anxious - 4-Aug-12 @ 12:10 AM
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