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Insight into the Symptoms of Eating Disorders

written by: Suzanne Florin • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/12/2011

Eating disorders can be destructive to health if prompt treatment is not received. This article provides an insight into the symptoms of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

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    Roll and jam Eating disorders affect a person psychologically, emotionally, and physically. They generally involve negative thoughts and feelings about body shape, weight, and food. Those who have eating disorders adopt eating habits that disrupt normal body processes, as well as their daily activities.

    The symptoms of eating disorders vary depending on type. This article highlights the symptoms of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

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    Symptoms of Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa

    A person suffering from anorexia nervosa has an obsession with being very thin. The drive to achieve an extraordinarily gaunt body leads to self-starvation and malnutrition. Here are some signs of this eating disorder:

    Excessive weight loss in a short period of time

    A dramatic loss of weight is attributed to crash dieting and taking in tiny amounts of food.

    Dizziness, fatigue, and fainting

    Food deprivation leads to malnutrition as the body is not receiving some of the essential minerals, vitamins and nutrients that it needs. If very active people do not eat enough food they will become exhausted easily with even moderate exercise, and they may even experience fainting spells. Irregular heart rhythm, low blood pressure, and dehydration are also some of the symptoms that can be attributed to starvation and malnutrition.

    Abdominal pains, constipation, loss of menstruation

    A drastic change in one's diet can alter several body processes. If disregarded, these symptoms can cause severe illnesses that can be alarming. Among these are ulcers, amenorrhea, muscle atrophy, and heart failure.

    Social withdrawal

    An anorexic shuns social gatherings that would require him or her to eat. Preoccupation with food and an obsession to achieve an ideal weight matter more than being part of social events. Social withdrawal makes an anorexic feel safe from giving into the temptation to eat, thus he or she becomes a loner.

    Poor self-image and lack of self-esteem

    Despite the gaunt appearance, an anorexic feels that he or she is never good enough in everything. A person may also become depressed, pessimistic, and a perfectionist; he or she has a constant need to prove competence and approval from others.

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    Symptoms of Eating Disorders: Bulimia Nervosa

    Episodes of bingeing and purging occur regularly, and this habit can pose health hazards to a person. The following eating disorder symptoms are evident in a person suffering from bulimia nervosa:

    Frequent visit to the bathroom after eating

    Overeating eventually makes the person feel guilty and ashamed of him or herself. Thus, he or she does everything to expel what was ingested. Going to the bathroom after eating becomes a habit for a bulimic, where self-induced vomiting is carried out.

    Sores in the throat and mouth

    The pressure applied in the throat (done by sticking a finger inside the mouth and the throat) when a bulimic tries to vomit can eventually result in sores. This habit can also inflame the salivary glands, damage the teeth and gums, and cause scars on the knuckles and back of the hand.

    Abnormal bowel functioning and dehydration

    A bulimic sometimes uses laxatives or diuretics to make it easier for him or her to get rid of the food consumed. If used frequently and excessively, these can alter bowel functioning and cause dehydration.

    Irregular heartbeat, fatigue, dizziness

    Loss of fluids and electrolytes including potassium, sodium, and chloride can cause the muscles to weaken. This makes the person feel lethargic, and they may experience shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue. Among the severe complications of electrolyte imbalance (which is attributed to laxative abuse) are heart and kidney failure.

    Depression, mood changes, poor self-image

    The huge amount of stress that goes with the bingeing-purging cycle can make the person feel physically and emotionally exhausted. A person develops a poor self-image, and this leads to depression and even thoughts of suicide.