How do people feel when they have an eating disorder?

How Do People Feel When They Have an Eating Disorder?

Most people with eating disorders often experience a range of intense and sometimes negative emotions and unhealthy behaviors that can be taxing on one's mental health. The specific feelings can vary depending on the individual and the type of eating disorder.

This article we will answer how people feel when they have an eating disorder and also address behavioral signs and physical signs to be aware of.

Common signs of an Eating Disorder

Despite the difficulties caused by an eating disorder, it can be difficult for someone to recognize they have a problem. People usually justify what is going on with them and dismiss any true mental health needs.

An eating disorder effects a persons mental health and physical well being.

Common signs of emotional distress and mental disorders associated with an eating disorder are:

Anxiety -

People with eating disorders may experience intense anxiety related to their eating habits and current body image or a distorted body image. They may worry healthy eating habits, weight loss, losing weight or gaining weight. In addition, they listen to their nagging eating disorder voice (a voice that only is of negative thoughts and can haunt someone to engage in self harm).

Guilt and Shame -

Many people with eating disorders feel guilty or ashamed about their disordered eating and behaviors around food. They may feel like they are never going to achieve a healthy weight and feel as if they are doing something wrong. Their guilt and shame can lead to mental health conditions stemming from feeling they are somehow flawed or inadequate.

Depression -

Often a person with an eating disorder feels lonely which can lead to depression. Eating disorders can be isolating and emotionally draining, which can lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. People with eating disorders may struggle with mental illness in their family history and begin to lose joy in activities.

Obsessiveness -

People with eating disorders may become fixated on food. Sometimes the fixation is on certain foods and specific eating habits. Body weight overall - normal weight, weight loss, and extreme weight loss can cause excessive exercising, and effect coping mechanisms and thought patterns.

A person's life can become filled with extreme fear and they can avoid eating or binge eat. Body image and low self esteem can lead to obsessive thoughts and behaviors.

Someone can spend hours each day thinking about what they will eat, how much they will eat, and how they will compensate for any calories they consume.

Low Self-esteem -

Eating disorders can take a toll on a person's self-esteem and self-worth. People with eating disorders may feel like they are not good enough or that they do not deserve to be happy and healthy. A person with an eating disorder feels like nothing will ever get better.

Gaining a better understanding of eating disorders and their cause is helpful, however, since eating disorders vary and each person's experience is unique not everyone with an eating disorder will experience the same thing.

eating disorders

How Many Eating Disorders Are There?

There are several types of eating disorders recognized by the medical community. The most common ones are:

Anorexia Nervosa:

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, and an extreme restriction of food intake, which can lead to severe weight loss.

Bulimia Nervosa:

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves binge eating followed by purging behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting or the use of or abusing laxatives.

Binge Eating Disorder:

A binge eating disorder involves recurrent episodes of binge eating, in which a person consumes a large amount of food in a short period of time and feels a loss of control over their eating.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID):

ARFID is an eating disorder that surrounds a persistent lack of interest in food, avoiding certain foods or food groups, and a resulting failure to meet nutritional needs.

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED):

OSFED is a unique category and includes a variety of eating disorder symptoms that do not fit the diagnostic criteria for the other eating disorders.


This is an eating disorder characterized by a persistent and compulsive craving for and consumption of non-food items, such as dirt or hair.

Rumination Disorder:

This disorder involves the regurgitation of food that is then re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out.

anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder

Can a Person have Anorexia Nervosa and a Binge Eating Disorder?

While it is rare, a person can have both anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder (BED) at different times in their life, or even at the same time. This condition is sometimes called "anorexia-binge-purge subtype" or "anorexia-bulimia subtype" and is recognized as a subtype of anorexia nervosa in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

In this subtype, a person may restrict food intake to the point of severe weight loss, but then have recurrent episodes of binge eating and feel a loss of control over their eating. After the binge, a person may try to compensate by purging behaviors or engaging in other behaviors like exercising excessively.

Having both anorexia nervosa and a binge eating disorder can make finding the right treatment options more challenging, as the person may struggle with conflicting feelings about food and body image.

Treatment options for this subtype typically involves addressing both the restrictive, binge and purging behaviors and may involve a combination of medical professionals, nutritional therapy, and mental health interventions.

Wrapping it Up:

In learning about how people feel with an eating disorder it is important to note that to gain or lose weight is part of the diet culture of America. Weight gain and extreme weight loss can have serious health consequences and medical complications.

A persons mental health is important.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237

Brianna Reichenbach
Brianna Reichenbach

Devoted beer fan. Wannabe web maven. Lifelong tv geek. Infuriatingly humble travel guru. Devoted bacon advocate.

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