Diagnosing Eating Disorders

Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms

Symptoms of anorexia nervosa can include:

  • distorted body image and intense persistent fear of gaining weight
  • excessive weight loss
  • menstrual irregularities
  • excessive body/facial hair
  • compulsive exercise

Bulimia nervosa involves using diet for emotional control. Binging becomes a way to relieve stress, anxiety or depression. Purging the calories relieves the guilt of overeating. It becomes a habit. Women with bulimia are usually more impulsive, more socially outgoing, and less self-controlled than those with anorexia. They are also more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances.

Bulimia is harder to recognize than anorexia. Generally, the symptoms are subtle, and bulimic women aren't necessarily thin. Even so, if you have bulimia, you may be starving nutritionally because you are not getting the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need.

Symptoms of bulimia include:

  • preoccupation with food
  • binge eating, usually in secret
  • vomiting and extreme use of laxatives or diuretics after binges
  • menstrual irregularities
  • compulsive exercise

Among the physical effects of bulimia are:

  • dehydration
  • chronic diarrhea
  • extreme weakness
  • damage to bowels, liver and kidneys
  • electrolyte imbalance and low potassium levels, which lead to irregular heartbeat, and in some cases, cardiac arrest
  • tooth erosion from repeated exposure to stomach acid
  • broken blood vessels in the eyes and a puffy face due to swollen glands, which are telltale signs of self-induced vomiting
  • cuts and calluses across the fingers from thrusting a hand into the throat
  • ruptured esophagus due to forced vomiting

Still, the outlook for bulimics is generally better than it is for anorexics. Women with bulimia are less likely to require hospitalization, although 20 percent of women still struggle with the disease after 10 years.

Symptoms of binge eating include:

  • episodes of binge eating when not physically hungry
  • frequent dieting
  • feeling unable to stop eating voluntarily
  • awareness that eating patterns are abnormal
  • weight fluctuations
  • depressed mood
  • feelings of shame
  • antisocial behavior
  • obesity

Medical consequences of binge eating are:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • gall bladder disease
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • certain types of cancer

More to Explore