Surviving Anorexia
Psychological warning signs of an eating disorder

Psychological warning signs can be difficult to detect in anyone suffering from an eating disorder. They usually only come to light through changes in behaviour or through discussion and conversation.

  • Preoccupation with eating, food, body shape and weight
  • Feeling anxious and or irritable around meal times
  • Feeling ‘out of control’ around food
  • 'Black and white’ thinking (e.g. rigid thoughts about food being ‘good’ or ‘bad’)
  • A distorted body image
  • Using food as a source of comfort (e.g. eating as a way to deal with boredom, stress or depression)
  • Using food as self-punishment (e.g. refusing to eat due to depression, stress or other emotional reasons)

Behavioural warning signs of an eating disorder

Behavioural symptoms are commonly present in those with eating disorders. While you may recognise some of these symptoms in someone you care about, these signs can still be concealed and may be difficult to detect.

  • Dieting behaviour (e.g. fasting, counting calories/kilojoules, avoiding food groups such as fats and carbohydrates)
  • Eating in private and avoiding meals with other people
  • Evidence of binge eating (e.g. disappearance and/or hoarding of food)
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom during or shortly after meals
  • Vomiting or using laxatives , enemas, appetite suppressants or diuretics
  • Changes in clothing style (e.g. wearing baggy clothes)
  • Compulsive or excessive exercising (e.g. exercising in bad weather, continuing to exercise when sick or injured, and experiencing distress if exercise is not possible)
  • Changes in food preferences (e.g. claiming to dislike foods previously enjoyed, sudden preoccupation with ‘healthy eating’, or replacing meals with fluids)
  • Obsessive rituals around food preparation and eating (e.g. eating very slowly, cutting food into very small pieces, insisting that meals are served at exactly the same time every day)
  • Extreme sensitivity to comments about body shape, weight, eating and exercise habits
  • Secretive behaviour around food (e.g. saying they have eaten when they haven’t, hiding uneaten food in their rooms)

Physical warning signs of an eating disorder
  • Rapid weight loss or frequent weight changes
  • Loss or disturbance of menstruation in girls and women and decreased libido in men Fainting or dizziness
  • Feeling tired and not sleeping well
  • Lethargy and low energy
  • Signs of damage due to vomiting including swelling around the cheeks or jaw, calluses on knuckles, damage to teeth and bad breath
  • Feeling cold most of the time, even in warm weather

"You need to come face to face with the past, not as some naive, easily wounded boy, but as a grown-up, independent professional.

Not to see what you want to see, but what you must seeOtherwise you will carry around that baggage for the rest of your life.

Murakami, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki

Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language.
Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki, Murakami
Research shows that 56 percent of 9-year-old girls and 45 percent of 9-year-old boys want to be thinner. We know body image issues start young and sometimes last a lifetime. That’s why it’s important we talk with children as soon as we can about how to have a healthy body image and be well regardless of weight.
Changing your self-talk is not a magic cure for unhappiness, but it can change the trajectory of your life.