An eating disorder can include severe overeating, or eating extremely small amounts of food. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that an eating disorder is an illness that causes serious disturbances to your everyday diet.

Typically, an eating disorder manifests itself during the teen years, but can happen at any point in life. Eating disorders typically exist with other illnesses, such as depression or substance abuse. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. Here are some signs and symptoms that may occur if someone is dealing with one of these eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa

A person with anorexia limits the amount of food they eat, even if they are too thin. They have an intense fear of gaining weight. Signs and symptoms of anorexia are documented here.

  • Has a low body weight
  • Has a fear of gaining weight, or thinks that he or she is fat when she is thin
  • Misses three menstrual cycles in a row
  • Makes themselves throw up
  • Takes diet pills, or needs to take pills to have a bowel movement
  • Eats very little
  • Exercises a lot, even in bad weather or when hurt or tired
  • Shows signs of mental illness, including anxiety, depression, obsessive behavior or substance abuse

The NIMA explains some of the negative consequences anorexia nervosa can have on the body:

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  • Thinning of the bones
  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure, slow breathing and pulse
  • Damage to structure and function of the heart
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing person to feel cold all the time.
  • Infertility

Bulimia Nervosa

A person with bulimia eats a lot of food in a short period of time, and purges by vomiting or taking laxatives. Womenshealth.gov documents signs and symptoms of bulimia.

  • Has fear of gaining weight
  • Is unhappy with shape and body size
  • Uses diet pills
  • Goes to the bathroom all the time after eating
  • Has swollen cheeks or jaw area
  • Has teeth that look clear
  • Has broken blood vessels in the eye
  • Shows signs of mental illness including anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

The NIMA explains some of the negative consequences bulimia nervosa can have on the body:

  • Chronic sore throat
  • Acid reflux or gastrointestinal problems
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance that can lead to heart attack

Binge Eating

Binge eaters lose control over their eating. Unlike the other disorders characterized here, binge eaters do not purge or fast, and therefore are often overweight or obese. Womenshealth.gov documents the signs and symptoms of binge eating.

  • Eats more quickly than usual
  • Eats until uncomfortably full, or when not hungry
  • Eats because of embarrassment
  • Feels anxiety over their eating
  • Shows signs of mental illness including anxiety, depression and substance abuse

Because binge eating can lead to heart disease, binge eating can lead to the following health problems: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, heart disease and types of cancer.

Treatable Conditions

Luckily, according to the American Psychological Association, eating disorders are largely treatable when handled by trained health and mental healthcare professionals. The sooner treatment begins, the easier the disease is to treat.

If someone is experiencing the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, they should seek help immediately.