Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa & Bulimia

The progressive symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia are based on the most often repeated experiences of those with Anorexia and Bulimia. When a person with Anorexia Nervosa becomes bulimic, that person will experience symptoms characteristic of both eating disorders. While every symptom does not occur in every case or in precisely the same order, it does portray a typical progression pattern. While Anorexia and Bulimia are most frequently associated with women, men also acquire the disease. The goals, treatment and resultant behavior changes in recovery are similar for both eating disorders.

Early Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Low self-esteem
  • Misperceptions of hunger, satiety & other bodily functions
  • Feelings of lack of control
  • Distorted body image

Middle Stage Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Over achiever
  • Compliant
  • Anxiety
  • Menstrual cycle stops (Amenorrhea)
  • Progressive preoccupation with food & eating
  • Isolation from family & friends
  • Perfectionist behavior
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Eat alone
  • Fights with family
  • Overeating (may begin to cook & control family eating)
  • Fatigue
  • Increased facial & body hair
  • Decreased scalp hair

Crucial Stage Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa


  • Thin, dry scalp
  • Emaciated appearance (loss of 25% or more of total body weight)
  • Feeling of control over body
  • Rigid
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Fear of food
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Malnutrition
  • Mood swings
  • Tyrannical
  • Diminished capacity to think
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Weakness
  • Lassitude cardi arrest
  • Denial of a problem
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty walking & sitting
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fear of food & gaining weight

Early Symptoms of Bulimia


  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling that self worth is dependent on low weight
  • Dependent on opposites for approval
  • Normal weight
  • Constant concern with weight & body image
  • Experimentation with vomiting, laxatives & diuretics
  • Poor impulsive control

Middle Stage Symptoms of Bulimia


  • Fear of bingeing
  • Eating getting out of control
  • Embarrassment
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self indulgent behavior
  • Eats alone
  • Preoccupation with eating & food
  • Tiredness
  • Apathy
  • Irritability
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Elimination of normal activities
  • Anemia
  • Social isolation
  • Distancing friends & family
  • Dishonesty
  • Lying
  • Stealing food / money
  • Tooth damage
  • Gum disease
  • Bingeing
  • High carbohydrate food

Crucial Stage Symptoms of Bulimia


  • Drugs & alcohol abuse
  • Laxative & diuretic abuse
  • Mood swings
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Difficulties in breathing or swallowing
  • Hypokalemia (abnormally low potassium)
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • General ill health
  • Constant physical problems
  • Possible rupture of the heart
  • Possible rupture of the esophagus
  • Peritonitis
  • Severe dehydration
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Suicidal tendencies or attempts

Rehabilitation & Recovery for both Anorexia Nervosa & Bulimia

A word of caution, unlike drug and alcohol detox and recovery that can be achieved in a relatively short period of time, recovery time from Anorexia and Bulimia takes from 1 to 3 years


  • Acceptance of the illness
  • Participation in a treatment or 12 step program
  • Acceptance of medical & psychiatric help
  • Resumption of normal self control
  • Appreciation of spiritual values
  • Resumption of normal eating patterns
  • Diminished fears
  • Diminished guilt & depression
  • Self approval (not dependent on weight)
  • Achievement of personal goals
  • Acceptance of personal limitations
  • New or re-found friends
  • New or re-found interests
  • Return to normal menstrual cycles
  • Enjoys food & eating without guilt
  • Full awareness of surroundings
  • At ease with life
  • Understanding of family
  • Regained respect of family & friends
  • Developing optimism
  • Improved self image
  • Increased assertiveness
  • Honesty
  • Trust & openness

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