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Spotting Warning Signs

Warning signs for EDs can be of several kinds, and range from very visible and obvious to extremely subtle. While this is not an entirely comprehensive list, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to spotting warning signs for eating disorders, we have put together a starting point. These are some of the most commonly observed symptoms – emotional, behavioral and physical.

Early Warning Signs

Common Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

EMOTIONAL & Bheavioral symptoms


  • In general, attitudes and behaviours that suggest that dieting, weight loss and control of food are becoming increasingly important.
  • Frequent dieting, including refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, no sugar etc.)
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Focusing on weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting
  • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
  • Food rituals (e.g. eats only a particular type of food or food group [e.g. condiments], excessive chewing, doesn’t allow the foods to touch each other)
  • Not having full meals or having small portions of food at regular meals
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • Extreme concern with body size and shape
  • Frequently checking the mirror to see the flaws in appearance
  • Disruption or change in Eating Patterns
  • Fixation on Nutritional Content of foods

physical symptoms


  • Noticeable weight fluctuations – significant weight loss or gain
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating, sleeping
  • Issues with dental, skin, hair, and nail health
  • Stomach cramps, other general gastrointestinal problems (acid reflux, constipation, etc.)
  • Loss, delay or disturbance of menstruation in people who menstruate
  • Abnormal laboratory findings (low thyroid and hormone levels, anemia, low potassium, low red and white blood cell counts)
  • Dental problems, such as cavities, enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity
  • Dry skin and hair, and brittle nails
  • Weakness in the Muscle
  • Impaired immune functioning
  • Musculoskeletal injuries and soreness or pain from overexercising
  • Having low energy levels
  • Feeling cold even when there is warm weather