I think I have an eating disorder

An eating disorder is more than just losing or gaining weight; it’s about the thoughts and feelings that are going on inside your head. Below are some lists of the different signs that may indicate you have an eating disorder. There are a number of different types of eating disorders, so signs will differ for different people. Everybody will have some of these signs but if you can identify with many of them, it is possible you have an eating disorder. It is very important you talk to someone as eating disorders seldom go away without professional help.

You may find it difficult to answer these questions truthfully or you may not believe that these things are happening to you. That’s very normal. It might help if you print this page out and go through it with a close friend or family member. They can often see things that you can’t.

Emotions & Thoughts

Do you…
  • feel very guilty and shameful about eating
  • believe you are fat when you are not
  • wish you were thinner
  • have black and white thinking about food. ie good food & bad food
  • have low self esteem
  • have a need for perfection
  • have periods of depression
  • become very irritable and argumentative – especially around food and meal times
  • feel very ineffective
  • think in extremes – if I’m not thin, I’ll be grossly obese
  • feel very embarrassed about your behaviour
  • feel very anxious around food
  • feel unhappy with your current size or shape of body
  • deny or minimise the seriousness of the behaviour
  • feel hopeless and out of control

Are you…

  • over-sensitive to criticism
  • extremely concerned about your appearances, both physical and behavioral
  • more anxious than in the past (especially around situations that include eating)
  • afraid of being discovered
  • disgusted with yourself

Physical Signs of Starvation

Have you noticed…
  • a significant weight loss (although this doesn’t always happen)
  • the hair on your head thinning or losing more than normal
  • the appearance of fine raised hair on the body (Lanugo)
  • feeling bloated
  • your skin is pale and dry
  • your periods are irregular or have stopped all together

Physical Signs of Bingeing and Purging

Have you noticed…
  • your weight fluctuating or no change even with starving yourself
  • your cheeks are puffy
  • your eyes are red
  • scars on your knuckles from self induced vomiting

Behaviours around Food

If you are restricting your intake (not eating much) you may have noticed the following behaviours. Do you…
  • refuse to eat or only eat tiny amounts
  • feel full after only a small amount of food
  • deny being hungry
  • feel obsessed with food
  • spend lots of time looking at recipes
  • cook for others but not eating yourself
  • become very concerned and ‘worried’ about what others are eating
  • count calories or measure food quantities
  • talk about food a lot
  • only eat particular types of food or at certain times
  • claim you have a dislike of or are allergic to particular foods (especially red meat, sweets and fatty foods) so you don’t have to eat them
  • only eat diet or non-fat foods
  • have difficulty choosing foods to eat
  • prefer foods of a certain colour or texture
  • compulsively arrange your food before eating it
  • cut food up into tiny pieces
  • eat with a teaspoon
  • mix your foods together before eating them
  • only eat one type of food at a time
  • add lots of condiments (salt, pepper, relish, mustard, vinegar) to your food
  • eat extremely slowly
  • eat food in a specific sequence

If you are binge eating you may have noticed the following behaviours. Do you…

  • hide food in your room or a separate cupboard ready for a binge
  • have other people commenting on food going missing
  • hide food wrappers around the house so no-one finds them
  • find yourself stealing food or money from people or shop-lifting
  • find it hard to explain where money in the flat account went
  • often go for walks to find, buy or steal food
  • fast or restrict food between binges
  • tend to binge at night, once everyone else has gone to bed

If you are purging you may have noticed the following behaviours. Do you…

  • vomit after eating
  • use laxatives, diuretics or enemas to try to lose weight
  • go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  • feel anxious if you are unable to vomit after eating

Behaviours around eating

Often people with eating disorders display very specific behaviours around meal times. Do you…

  • refuse to eat with your family, friends, flatmates or colleagues
  • feel very anxious about eating in public
  • eat different food than the rest of the family or flatmates
  • eat food at different times to the rest of the family or flatmates
  • not talk much (or talk heaps) during meals
  • leave the table frequently during meals (especially to go the bathroom)
  • secretly dispose of food during the meal (wrapping it in a napkin, wiping it on the underside of plate, feeding it to the dog, putting it in pockets)
  • drink heaps of water (at meals or during the day)
  • lie to your family and friends about how much you have eaten
  • do things so your family or flatmates won’t notice you aren’t eating much – ie eat a normal size dinner but that is all you have eaten all day.
  • feel obsessed with food and eating

Other signs

Finally you may have noticed the following signs. Do you…
  • deny being ill or underweight
  • frequently weigh yourself
  • avoid social interaction so as to avoid food
  • exercise excessively
  • get upset when things aren’t how you like them to be
  • wear baggy clothes
  • abuse alcohol or drugs
  • buy diet books or get them out of the library
  • find yourself becoming very secretive (especially around what you haven eaten)
  • have a decreased interest in sex
  • have trouble sleeping
  • have problems concentrating
  • have memory problems
  • have difficulty comprehending information
  • have difficulty making decisions
  • have difficulty with money because you spend lots on food
  • shoplift food or laxatives or steal money to buy food

Remember there are many different types of eating disorders. Every person’s pattern and experience of an eating disorder is unique.

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