How Do I Know if I Have an Eating Disorder?

By Lauren Ranley, MS, RD, LDN

The purpose of this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, prevent, or diagnose related medical issues.

Eating Disorders Include: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge-Eating Disorder (BED), and Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Eating disorders manifest as food-related behaviors which negatively influence physical and mental health. Long-term eating disorders potentially impact the ability to fulfill life goals, relationships, careers, and academic success. The first step in recovery is recognizing eating disorder behaviors, and early recognition has higher recovery prospects. Letting go of the false sense of control of disordered eating habits is difficult, but a good treatment team eases recovery stress.

Eating disorders are complicated mental health issues and not as straightforward as someone wanting to drop a few pounds or avoiding carbohydrates as dictated by a new fad diet. An eating disorder is a psychological condition characterized by an obsession with weight, body size, and food leading to abnormal eating habits and imbalanced behaviors, thoughts, and moods. The cause of eating disorders varies, including life challenges, mental health issues, or a lack of social interaction. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, not lifestyle choices.

When thinking about eating disorders, the most extreme cases come to mind. We compare our behaviors to those severe cases and think, “at least I’m not that bad.” Rationalizing behaviors is our eating disorder voice convincing us we don’t need help. Each person experiences an eating disorder differently, and comparing our journey to others is not fair. The severity of the disorder doesn’t dictate who deserves recovery because everyone deserves recovery.

Engaging in eating disorder behaviors is possible without having an official diagnosis. Use the self-assessment tool below to examine your relationship with food and movement. If you are struggling with eating disorder behaviors, schedule an appointment with your doctor for further discussion. A physician makes the official diagnosis and refers patients to providers specializing in treating various issues, including eating disorders. If you need help finding a doctor, reach out to, and we will work together to get you the help you need.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Have I ever made myself sick (vomiting) because I felt uncomfortably full?

Vomiting after eating can be a major sign that you may be suffering from an eating disorder.

2. Have I ever felt a loss of control while eating and consumed an unusually large amount of food at one time?

You may be coping with negative emotions if you feel like you are overeating excessively. You may constantly think about food and feel guilty, regretful, or unhappy after eating.

3. Do I consume a small amount of food (less than 1,200 calories/day) or fast regularly to influence my shape or weight?

If you eat less than 1,200 calories per day, you may experience significant adverse effects. Weight loss may have occurred due to your body’s slowed metabolism, even though your body is sending hunger cues to eat.

4. Do I ever feel fat?

Having constant thoughts about your body throughout the day and believing your waist, arms, or even fingertips are fat could suggest an eating disorder.

5. Do I avoid certain foods because of features (texture, consistency, temperature, smell)?

You may have an eating disorder if you eat a very limited variety of foods, perhaps less than 20.

6. Do I avoid certain foods because I’m afraid I’ll experience negative consequences (choking, vomiting) from eating?

If you are afraid of food, it may disrupt your everyday life and prevent you from enjoying meals because it can significantly impact your health and life.

7. Do I try a lot of different diets?

If you continuously explore new diets or implement different food rules to regulate your weight, you may have a problem. Individuals suffering from an eating disorder use a variety of diet plans to help maintain or reduce their weight.

8. Do I refuse to eat with others?

If you suffer from an eating disorder, you may find handling food in social situations difficult. You might try to avoid attending group gatherings that include eating. When food is given, you may detach and leave the gathering.

9. Do I exercise excessively to burn calories?

With an eating disorder, exercise can become more than just an enjoyable or healthy way to move. Instead, exercise is used to compensate for caloric intake or punishment for “overeating.” People are often compulsive about keeping track of how many calories they burn versus how many calories they consume.

Determining if disordered eating patterns have progressed to an eating disorder is difficult. Have you been engaging in this conduct regularly? Have you been preoccupied with what you eat and how your body appears? Answering yes to any of these questions warrants a deeper discussion. We know this is a challenging concept to understand, so if you are having trouble establishing where the line is, reach out, we’re here to help.