Recognizing when a loved has an eating disorder may not be as easy as you think. While a drastic weight loss or gain over a short period of time may be a more common and recognizable clue, it’s the more subtle tip-offs that can tell you the entire story.

Anorexia nervosa

As well documented as it is among eating disorders, no specific cause has ever been attributed to triggering Anorexia nervosa and its accompanying obsession with thinness. While it most commonly affects adolescent females, males are also known to suffer its effects. Anorexic women also tend to be high achievers, and known for their pursuit of excellence. Other tell tale signs include:

  • irritability or trouble dealing with other people
  • obsession with food or developing food-related or eating rituals
  • excessive exercise
  • refusal to eat in public
  • irregular menstrual cycle
  • constipation
  • always feeling cold

Bulimia Nervosa

While Anorexia sufferers tend to focus on less and less food, Bulimia victims will binge-eat excessive amounts of food, often only stopping when the pain becomes too much for them. Then they will purge their bodies through vomiting or using laxatives. They may also show signs of:

  • low self-esteem
  • gum damage and/or abnormal tooth decay
  • going to the restroom immediately after meals
  • sores on the knuckles or hands
  • exaggerated focus on body shape and weight
  • mouth or throat sores

Binge Eating

This disorder is characterized by regularly over eating large amounts of food, except there is no effort to rid the body of those calories through exercise, laxative use, or vomiting.

  • eating faster when bingeing
  • eating in secret
  • feeling upset at the amount of food eaten during a binge

While not any one of these symptoms on its own confirms an eating disorder (as teens and young adults will often go on diets to shed what they feel is excess weight), be sure to keep an eye out for a combination of such behaviors and others such as an insistence on only eating specific, low calorie foods or persistent checking in the mirror. Eating disorders can wreak havoc on developing bodies, but a keen eye or ear may reveal the clues you need to recognize the warning signs and get your loved one the help he or she needs to overcome it and get back on the road to healthy eating habits and recovery.