Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Tell If You or a Friend May Have an Eating Disorder


Signs of Bulimia

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by frequent consumption of large amounts of food in a short period of time — binge eating. A bulimic may eat as many as 20,000 calories in a binge. Such binges are generally followed by feelings of guilt and depression, and by purging via vomiting, use of laxatives or diuretics or fasting. You can't spot a bulimic by weight — it's usually normal or a somewhat above normal, but may fluctuate by 10 pounds or more due to binging and purging behavior.

Behaviors and emotional symptoms of bulimia:

  • Binge eating, or eating uncontrollably and/or secretively.
  • Purging by dieting, fasting, exercise, vomiting or using laxatives or diuretics.
  • Using the bathroom frequently after meals.
  • Obsession with weight.
  • Depression.
  • Mood swings.
  • Feelings of being out of control.

Other symptoms:

  • Swollen glands in the neck and face.
  • Heartburn.
  • Bloating.
  • Irregular periods.
  • Dental problems.
  • Constipation.
  • Indigestion.
  • Sore throat.
  • Vomiting blood.
  • Weakness and exhaustion.
  • Bloodshot eyes.

Binge Eating

Like those with bulimia, those with binge eating disorders indulge in compulsive overeating. However, they do not purge their binges and often are overweight. Some overeat throughout the day rather than binging.

Behaviors and symptoms of binge eating:

  • Binge eating episodes.
  • Eating when not hungry.
  • Frequent dieting.
  • Uncontrollable eating.
  • Awareness that eating patterns aren't normal.
  • Feelings of shame, depression or antisocial behavior.
  • Obesity.
  • Weight fluctuations.
  • 1
  • 2

More to Explore