How to Know You Have an Eating Disorder

Published on: May 23, 2022 

People indeed deal with disordered eating at some point in their lives. Perhaps you're an athlete and have a strict diet or are dieting for months to lose weight. On the other hand, maybe you're just stressed out and aren't eating as much as your body needs.

There are many different ways to tell if you or a loved one has an eating disorder. However, if you're concerned, it's crucial to get help as soon as possible—the sooner an eating disorder is treated, the more successful treatment will be.

Sometimes it feels like there's always a new trend in dieting, and it can be hard to know what's normal and healthy and what a sign of an eating disorder is.

Here are a few red flags to look for that could be a sign you have an eating disorder:

Adopting Ritualistic Eating Habits

If you find yourself developing rigid rules about when and how often you eat or how much food is acceptable to eat at one time, this is a problem. When your eating habits start to feel like an inflexible chore, it can indicate that you're struggling with an eating disorder.

You may have heard of orthorexia, which is when someone starts adopting very rigid rules about their diet. For example, saying things like, "I can't eat that, I only eat organic food," or "I can only eat this food if I prepare it myself" might be a sign of an unhealthy eating pattern.

Losing and Gaining Weight Rapidly

It's not uncommon to gain or lose weight during different times in your life. Still, if it's happening quickly, especially if you're trying to lose weight by extreme means (like fasting or taking laxatives), this could also be a sign of an eating disorder. It's also worth noting that you don't have to be losing weight or be underweight to have an eating disorder! Sometimes people with eating disorders gain weight because of their disordered eating habits.

You're Experiencing Lowered Self-Esteem

Eating disorders can be a way of coping with depression and low self-worth. Unfortunately, many people who have eating disorders will become emotionally withdrawn from friends and family. You're your own biggest critic and believe that no one could like who you are as a person.

Your Stomach Constantly Hurts

It's normal to feel uncomfortable if you overeat in one sitting. But if your stomach hurts just from performing usual activities, like walking around or getting dressed, it may signify that something's wrong. When you're under-eating regularly, your body isn't getting the nutrients and energy it needs to function properly—and that can cause pain and discomfort in all kinds of places.

Avoiding Usual Friends and Activities

If you're suddenly all alone with your phone, laptop, or television and aren't able to connect with other people, you might start thinking about food as a way of distracting yourself from the situation. Unfortunately, this is a common symptom of eating disorders because patients often isolate themselves from friends and family to focus on eating healthy foods rather than junk food.

The other signs that show you might be struggling with an eating disorder:

  • You feel restless or irritable when there isn't enough food in your stomach.
  • You eat a lot of fast foods and other processed foods.
  • You have a distorted body image, where it seems impossible to stay thin
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • You're exercising excessively—or feel compelled to do so.

A Quick Check List!

You might be wondering, "Am I normal?" or "I'm just a little off track right now—I'll get back on the right path."

Here's a quick checklist to help you decide. If your answer is yes to any of these questions, it's time to seek help.

  1. Do you feel like your stomach constantly hurts?
  2. Do you withdraw from your usual friends and activities?
  3. Do you feel like your self-esteem is low?
  4. Are your eating habits more ritualistic than they used to be?
  5. Are there rules about food that you never had before, and do those rules greatly influence what and how much you eat (or don't eat)?
  6. Are you losing and gaining weight rapidly?

For more information about Mental Health Conditions. Visit our Mental Health Library page.  To understand and cope with your psychological symptoms, get help from our Top 10 Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Therapists who are known for providing the best mental health treatment and psychiatry services. To book an appointment please call us at (800) 457-4573 or submit an appointment request.

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