Signs & Symptoms

Worried that you or a loved one may be suffering with an eating disorder or substance use disorder?

These signs and symptoms may help guide you or your loved one toward a path of healing.

Compulsive Over-eating

  • Binge eating large quantities of food
  • Constant grazing of food throughout day often secretively eating
  • Obsessive type thought of food, meals, and the desire to lose weight
  • Continued weight gain over time
  • Sometimes obsessions with the scale or weighing oneself
  • Inability to remain on a healthy meal plan without bingingepisodes
  • Failed attempts to lose
  • weight through various weight-loss diets, fasting or programs some even being extreme
  • Marked decrease in self-esteem or self-confidence
  • Possible mood swings
  • Increased feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • A feeling of not controlling eating compulsions
  • Self-loathing
  • There is often a sense of “calm” which accompanies binging
  • Excess weight causes many health problems some are: Strain on heart, Increase in blood pressure, Difficulty breathing, Stress on joints particularly knees, Increased risk of diabetes, Fatigue and decreased energy levels, Changes in metabolism


  • Episodes of binge eating large quantities of food followed by purging
  • Some abuse syrup of Ipecac for inducing vomiting
  • Purging may be by vomiting, use and abuse of laxatives, diuretics or excessive exercise
  • The binge-purge cycle is most often a secretive event
  • Increasing isolation for purpose of binging and purging
  • Obsessive thoughts of food, calories, weight, binging and purging
  • Often periods of restricting food accompany the plan to binge and purge
  • Decrease in the enjoyment of activities
  • Increase in mood swings
  • Self esteem and self confidence falls
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Feelings of being alone with an out-of-control secret problem
  • Intense fears of becoming fat and feeling fat
  • Body distortion or seeing oneself as fat even if not
  • Denial that there is a problem
  • Generally individual is at or around normal weight
  • Habit of chewing food and spitting it out
  • There often is a “high” and sense of relief following purging behavior
  • Bulimia causes many heal
  • th problems some are:
  • Possible hair loss
  • For women loss of Menses
  • Stomach and digestive problems
  • Dental problems
  • Electrolyte imbalances, low potassium
  • Physical dependency on laxatives
  • Possible irreversible damage to intestines
  • Internal bleeding from purging
  • Possible dehydration
  • Heart complications
  • There can always be the potential of serious complications resulting in illness and death


  • Denial that there is any problem
  • Dramatic weight loss in short period
  • Exaggerated and intense fears of becoming overweight
  • Preoccupation with calories, food and weight
  • Restricting food for prolonged periods
  • Inability to stop dieting even when below normal weight
  • Distorted body image orseeing oneself as fat even with evidence to the contrary
  • Constant weighing of ones self throughout the day
  • Increased isolation from family or friends
  • Isolative behavior concerning food and exercise – may stop eating in front of others
  • Increased prolonged periods of ex ercise for purpose of burning calories
  • Increased dishonesty with self and others over eating and exercise habits
  • Frequent arguments with others regarding eating habits
  • Increased mood swings
  • Self esteem and confidence levels drop
  • Possible loss of hair from head
  • Increased body hair as thermal insulator for body’s decreasing ability to stay warm
  • Loss of the ability to enjoy friends or activities
  • Strong feelings of being in control of oneself
  • There is often a “High” experienced with restricting and over exercising behavior
  • Possible feelings of self-loathing
  • Anorexia causes many health problems:
  • Changes in metabolism
  • Chronically chilly or cold
  • For women, loss of menses
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness and weakness from malnutrition
  • Body begins feeding itself of muscle tissue and storing fat
  • Heart complications
  • Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies
  • If untreated Anorexia can cause premature death from starvation.

Chemical Dependence / Substance Use Disorder

  • You need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts.
  • If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
  • You often do drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
  • You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, and recovering from the drug’s effects.
  • You have abandoned activities you used to enjoy such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your drug use.
  • You continue to use despite knowing its hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use anyway.

Physical Warning Signs-

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

Behavioral Signs

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)

Psychological Signs:

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason

Love Your Body

Do you love what you see when you look in the mirror?

Hollywood and the fashion, cosmetics and diet industries work hard to make each of us believe that our bodies are unacceptable and need constant improvement. Print ads and television commercials reduce us to body parts — lips, legs, breasts — airbrushed and touched up to meet impossible standards. TV shows tell women and teenage girls that cosmetic surgery is good for self-esteem. Is it any wonder that 80% of U.S. women are dissatisfied with their appearance?

Women and girls spend billions of dollars every year on cosmetics, fashion, magazines and diet aids. These industries can’t use negative images to sell their products without our assistance.

Together, we can fight back.

20 Ways to Love Your Body

Compiled by Margo Maine, PH.D.

Reprinted with permission from National Eating Disorders Association:

  1. Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.
  2. Create a list of all the things your body lets you do. Read it and add to it often.
  3. Become aware of what your body can do each day. Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just an ornament.
  4. Create a list of people you admire: people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.
  5. Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.
  6. Don’t let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.
  7. Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your body.
  8. Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
  9. Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend worrying about your body and appearance. Try one!
  10. Be your body’s friend and supporter, not its enemy.
  11. Consider this: your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months. Your body is extraordinary–begin to respect and appreciate it.
  12. Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
  13. Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you to do throughout the day.
  14. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don’t exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good. Exercise for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness, and Friendship.
  15. Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body. Tell yourself you can feel like that again, even in this body at this age.
  16. Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself–without mentioning your appearance. Add to it!
  17. Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, “I’m beautiful inside and out.”
  18. Choose to find the beauty in the world and in yourself.
  19. Start saying to yourself, “Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way.”
  20. Eat when you are hungry. Rest when you are tired. Surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.