We are often asked “How do I know if this is an eating disorder?” Many people diet or want to lose weight — that is not necessarily an eating disorder. An eating disorder is a serious illness in which a focus on food, weight or body interferes with one’s life and becomes an ingrained way of coping with emotions, relationships and one’s day-to-day life. No one knows what specifically causes an eating disorder. We know that anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders are a result of a complex interplay between physiological, psychological and social factors. We also know that many people present with a combination of different symptoms. However there are significant signs and symptoms of each disorder that can be a flag that a problem may well exist, regardless of specific diagnosis.
On the following web pages are checklists that describe signs of Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder that may be visible to the outside observer. These lists are not all-inclusive of every symptom but instead focus on what you can observe. These lists are also not meant to diagnose but they can allow you to determine whether a problem may be in the making and whether professional help may be needed. Remember though that some of the most critical characteristics of an eating disorder are those you won’t be able to see—the unspoken sadness, confusion, and fears.