To the untrained eye, eating disorders may seem uncomplicated. Just eat and love your body, right?

Unfortunately, there is much more complexity than that and the symptoms of eating disorders may not be obvious at first. They are serious illnesses that can impact all parts of life including physical, emotional and psychological health. Eating disorders can affect individuals of all ages, genders, races, body types, religions, sexual orientations, ethnicities and socio-economic statuses.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5 (DSM – 5) identifies eight different types of eating disorders. These diagnoses include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Pica, Rumination Disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), and Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED).

Below are just a few of the many symptoms that can be associated with eating disorders. It is important to note that not all of these symptoms will be indicative of an eating disorder. ALSO, an individual living with an eating disorder may not display all, or even any, of these signs. The one trait that these diagnoses do share is some type of disruption in one’s relationship to food and/or exercise.

What are the Symptoms of Eating Disorders?

  • Constant intrusive thoughts surrounding food – These thoughts may often get in the way of normal functioning and can involve uncomfortable feelings like fear, anxiety, and may become obsessive.
  • Rapid weight loss, gain, or frequent weight changes – While some individuals with an eating disorder may not experience any significant changes to weight or shape (which does NOT necessarily make the condition any less serious), it can be a common symptom and red flag.
  • Distorted and/or negative body image – Many individuals with an eating disorder report having a poor relationship with their body and a desire to change it in some way. If your feelings around your weight or shape have shifted, it may be a good time to think about seeking further support from an eating disorder specialist.
  • Eating in private/avoiding meals with others – This symptom often gains attention from friends and family. Isolating during mealtime, avoiding the cafeteria or dining hall, or coming up with excuses as to why you are not hungry can be indicative of a more serious problem. Eating in secrecy can also be a sign of an eating disorder and can result in feelings of shame, guilt or embarrassment.
  • Rigid “black & white” thinking about food, weight and/or shape – Labeling foods as “good” or “bad” is very common for those living with eating disorders. Unfortunately, society can impact how we view foods and often will label things for us. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps clients with eating disorders shift rigid, distorted thinking and helps to increase comfort with living in the gray. Specialized nutrition education can also help to break disordered food rules and encourage the practice of an all-foods-fit mentality.

The good thing about all of these symptoms is that they can be managed!

Early intervention is key in maximizing chances of lasting recovery. With specialized support and an open mind, everyone can experience healing.

If you or someone you know is experiencing disordered thoughts or behaviors around food or exercise, help is available. Visit to learn more about available treatment for teens and adults of all genders.