Disordered Eating and Body Image Concerns and/or Body Image Dissatisfaction

Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating include intense
emotions, beliefs, and behaviors regarding weight, food, and body image. Eating
disorders can severely interfere with eating behaviors and weight management. Stress eating and emotional eating can disrupt attempts to maintain or lose weight. These disordered eating patterns and concerns about body shape are associated with extreme anxiety, changes in mood (i.e. depression), and lead to problems in interpersonal relationships, such as isolation. Eating disorders are not only associated with emotional impairments, but also can cause serious, potentially life-threatening, physical health consequences.


The most effective treatments for an eating disorder, disordered eating pattern, and body image concerns is psychotherapy, coupled with specific attention to medical and nutritional needs. This treatment should be tailored to the individual and will vary, based on the intensity and severity of the eating disorder, and the client’s specific strengths and needs. A combination of psychotherapy and medication can be instrumental in helping clients recover. Psychological therapy must address both the eating disordered symptoms and the underlying psychological, relational, and multicultural influences that factored into the eating disorder.

Source: National Eating Disorder Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

Anorexia Nervosa:

Anorexia Nervosa involves restrictive eating or self-starving, excessive weight loss and refusal to maintain healthy body weight, preoccupation or obsession with food, and an intense fear of gaining weight, as well as an unrealistic view of one’s own body.

Warning Signs:
  • Obsession with Body Size
  • Skipping Meals
  • Denying Hunger
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Blunted Emotions
  • Over-Exercise
  • Frequent Weigh-Ins
  • Restrictive Eating to “Safe Foods
Physical Signs:
  • Severe Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness / Fainting
  • Brittle Nails and Thinning Hair
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty Tolerating Cold Temperatures
  • Changes in Menstruation
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Dry Skin
  • Abnormal Blood Counts
  • Irregular Heart Beat
  • Bone Fractures
Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa involves frequent episodes of binge eating, consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time, following by a period of purging. A purge is a behavior that is intended to prevent weight gains, such as self-induced vomiting, laxative use, food restriction or fasting, and over-exercise.

Warning Signs:
  • Frequent Dieting
  • Over-Exercise
  • Use of Diet Pills
  • Laxative or Diuretic Use
  • Enema Use
  • Hoarding Food
  • Out-of-Control Eating Resulting in Physical Discomfort
  • Going to the Bathroom During or Following Meals
Physical Signs:
  • Bloating
  • Dehydration
  • Sores in Throat or Mouth
  • Swollen Glands in the Cheeks
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Damaged Teeth
  • Changes in Bowel Functions
  • Sores on Knuckles or Hands
Binge Eating / Compulsive Overeating

Binge eating, or compulsive overeating, is characterized by reoccurring episodes of binge eating that are not followed by inappropriate purging behaviors to prevent weight gain. An individual who struggles with compulsive overeating experiences a sense of lack of control when eating overeats large amounts of food in a brief period of time and often eats alone because of being ashamed by the amount of food consumed.

Warning Signs:
  • Eating Large Amounts of Food
  • Rapid Eating
  • Frequently Eating Alone
  • Hoarding Food
  • Hiding “Evidence” of Overeating
  • Feeling a Lack of Control regarding Food
Physical Signs:
  • Weight Fluctuations
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in Sexual Desire
  • Weight Gain
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • High Cholesterol
  • Sleep Apnea

Orthorexia is a disordered eating pattern characterized by unhealthy obsessive behaviors in order to strictly maintain a healthy diet. An individual struggling with orthorexia is more focused on a “perfect” diet, instead of a “perfect” weight. He or she may avoid “impure” foods, such as fat, sugar, salt, animal products, and artificial flavoring.

Warning Signs:
  • Advanced Planning of Meals
  • Strict Dietary Guidelines
  • Esteem Linked to “Healthy” Eating
  • Concern of Food Preparation Techniques
  • Limiting “Acceptable” Foods
  • Increase in Supplements and Herbal Remedies
  • Concern about Undiagnosed Food Allergies
  • Avoiding Restaurants or Food Prepared by Others
 Physical Signs:
  • Malnutrition
  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss
  • Cardiac Complications
  • Orthorexia May Share Similar Physical Signs as Anorexia