National Eating Disorders Association

Those struggling with an eating disorder may have some, but not all, of the following emotional and behavioral signs. Presence of any of the signs that your loved one may be struggling is cause for serious concern and you should encourage them to seek professional help.

  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Negative or distorted self-image
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Self-worth and self-esteem dependent on body shape and weight
  • Fear of eating in public or with others
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Eating tiny portions or refusing to eat
  • Avoiding eating with others
  • Hoarding and hiding food
  • Eating in secret
  • Disappearing after eating—often to the bathroom
  • Unusual food rituals (cutting food into small pieces, chewing each bite an unusually large number of times, eating very slowly)
  • Any new practice with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups (no sugar, no carbs, no dairy, vegetarianism/veganism)
  • Little concern over extreme weight loss
  • Obessive interest in cooking shows on television and collecting recipes
  • Consumption of only “safe” or “healthy” foods
  • Social withdrawal
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Cooking elaborate meals for others, but refusing to eat them themselves
  • Eating strange combinations of foods
  • Elaborate food rituals
  • Withdrawing from normal social activities
  • Hiding weight loss by wearing bulky clothes
  • Flat mood or lack of emotion
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness (unable to sit down, etc.)
  • Rigidity in behaviors and routines, and experience of extreme anxiety if these are interrupted
  • Excessive exercising
  • Exercising even when ill or injured, or for the sole purpose of burning calories

Individuals with eating disorders may be at risk for co-occurring conditions such as mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, etc.), self-harm (cutting, etc.) and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.