Eating Disorder Symptoms, Causes, and Effects

An eating disorder is a mental illness characterized by aberrant eating practices that have a detrimental impact on a person’s physical or mental health.

Eating disorders are significant problems characterized by persistent eating habits that have a detrimental influence on your health, emotions, and capacity to perform in crucial areas of life. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorders are the most prevalent eating disorders.

Most eating disorders entail obsessing about your weight, body form, and food, which leads to unhealthy eating habits. These practices can have a substantial influence on your body’s capacity to obtain adequate nutrients. Eating disorders may wreak havoc on the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth, and mouth, as well as contribute to other problems.

What Are the Types of Eating Disorders?

Anorexia nervosa, which is a chronic unwillingness to consume enough food to maintain a healthy weight or function, is perhaps the most well-known of them. Another eating problem is bulimia nervosa. It is frequently connected with anorexia and is characterized by binge eating and purge cycles. Overeating is a type of eating disorder that may progress to obesity and all of the health concerns that come with it.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, like many eating disorders, is classified as an addiction-type condition, yet it is similar to delusional psychosis in many aspects. Anorexic people frequently perceive themselves to be overweight, regardless of their underlying physical conditions. This erroneous assumption is used to explain complete food deprivation until major health concerns necessitate care.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a particularly dangerous illness that frequently coexists with anorexia. Bulimics, like anorexics, frequently perceive themselves to be immensely overweight. Bulimia sufferers, unlike anorexics, may consume large amounts of food simply to cause vomiting in order to prevent the meal from being absorbed.

Substance-Induced Eating Disorders

Many medicines have the potential to influence the eating patterns of those who use them. It is generally known that certain chemotherapy drugs cause appetite loss. However, because it lacks the requisite element of compulsion or psychological reliance, this side effect does not fit the precise criteria of an eating disorder.

Rumination Disorder

“Repeated regurgitation of food happening after feeding or eating for at least one month [1]” is a symptom of Rumination Disorder. Rumination Disorder causes people to regurgitate previously ingested food without showing any signs of nausea, involuntary retching, or disgust.

Rumination Disorder should not be identified if actions are better explained by gastrointestinal or medical disease, or if they occur only during an anorexia, bulimia, BED, or ARFID episode, according to the diagnostic criteria.

Eating Disorder Symptoms

According to Ohio State University, the following are symptoms of a mood illness, often known as an affective disorder:

  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness
  • A marked loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decreased energy
  • Suicidal ideas or attempts
  • Irritability, hostility or aggression

Emotional Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

The emotional symptoms of an eating problem are as varied as the causes, and they can sometimes have just as significant repercussions as the underlying condition.

Physical Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

An eating disorder’s physical symptoms might range from significant weight loss to equally severe weight gain. Bulimia manifests itself through bad breath and rotting teeth, whereas anorexia manifests itself through a sallow complexion and drawn features.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of an Eating Disorder

An eating disorder can have a variety of short- and long-term consequences. Because bingeing, purging, and completely refraining from meals are all clearly abnormal behaviors to participate in on a regular basis, it’s no wonder that the human body reacts negatively to them.

An eating disorder can have the following short-term consequences:

  • Rapid weight loss in the case of anorexia
  • Rapid weight gain in the case of compulsive overeating
  • Dizziness, confusion or other alterations of the subject’s mental state
  • Aspiration pneumonia brought on via the accidental inhalation of vomit

Long-term effects of an eating disorder can set in early on and persist until years after the behavior is brought under control. These include:

  • All of the many health risks associated with obesity, such as heart disease, hypertension and stroke
  • Tooth decay and damage to the esophagus brought about by bulimia
  • Rickets, scurvy and other diseases caused by chronic vitamin deficiency
  • Depression, either caused or exacerbated by the underlying eating disorder

Urging a loved one to seek treatment

Be on the lookout for harmful eating behaviors and attitudes, as well as peer pressure that can lead to eating disorders. The following are red signs that might suggest an eating disorder:

  • Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
  • Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
  • Excessive focus on healthy eating
  • Making own meals rather than eating what the family eats
  • Withdrawing from normal social activities
  • Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
  • Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss
  • Excessive exercise
  • Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting
  • Problems with loss of tooth enamel that may be a sign of repeated vomiting
  • Leaving during meals to use the toilet

Eating Disorder Causes

Eating disorders are caused by a variety of factors that are unclear. There are a variety of reasons for bipolar disorder, just as there are for other mental diseases, including:

Biology and genetics: Certain people may be predisposed to eating problems due to genetic factors. Eating disorders may be caused by biological reasons such as changes in brain chemistry.

Psychological and emotional health: Eating disorder sufferers may have psychological and emotional issues that exacerbate the condition. Low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive conduct, and strained relationships are all possibilities.


Eating disorders can lead to a range of problems, some of which are life-threatening. The more severe or long-term your eating problem is, the more likely you are to develop major issues like:

  • Serious health problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Problems with growth and development
  • Social and relationship problems
  • Substance use disorders
  • Work and school issues
  • Death


Avoid dieting around your child: Family dining patterns may have an impact on the food interactions that children form. Eating meals with your child allows you to teach them about the dangers of dieting and encourages them to eat a well-balanced diet in sensible quantities.

Talk to your child: Many websites, for example, promote harmful concepts like considering anorexia as a lifestyle choice rather than an eating problem. It’s critical to address any misconceptions and talk to your youngster about the dangers of poor eating habits.

Cultivate and reinforce a healthy body image: in your child, regardless of his or her size or shape Discuss self-image with your child and reassure them that body forms vary. When you’re in front of your youngster, don’t criticize your own physique. Acceptance and respect messages may help youngsters develop good self-esteem and resilience, which will take them into the adolescent years.