The list below is of disordered thinking and disordered behaviors around food and body. Each of these behaviors increase a person's mindshare of thinking about food, body and eating -- which is what the graphic represents.  We all live somewher on this continuum. 

MindshareAnxiety

In the case of an eating disorder, a psychiatrist can add up these symptoms below and diagnose the disorder. (This is a very simplistic description of diagnosing a very complex disorder.)

The amount of space taken up with thoughts of food and body is also a problem for people before there is an eating disorder diagnosis.  When these symptoms take over too much mindshare, a person loses space and time for other things in their lives that matter. For an adolescent, their developmental task is figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. They can't get that job done if there's no room to do it!

Behaviors

  • An intense fear of gaining weight 
  • A negative or distorted self-image 
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws 
  • Self-worth and self-esteem depend on body shape and weight 
  • Fear of eating in public or with others 
  • Preoccupation with food 
  • Obsessive interest in maintaining low weight to enhance performance in sports, dance, acting, or modeling 
  • Obsessive interest in cooking shows on television and collecting recipes 
  • Hoarding food 
  • Only eating “safe” or “healthy” foods 
  • Making excuses for not eating 
  • Rigidity in behaviors and routines, and extreme anxiety if these are interrupted
  • Cooking elaborate meals for others, but refusing to eat them themselves
  • Eating strange combinations of foods
  • Elaborate food rituals
  • Constantly talking about food 
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom 
  • Wearing very baggy clothes to hide: 
    • a very thin body (anorexia) or 
    • weight gain (binge eating disorder) or 
    • their body because of dissatisfaction about body shape/size 
  • Feeling fatigued or getting dizzy 
  • Avoiding the cafeteria 
  • Carrying their own food in backpack or purse 
  • Talking about dieting, food, and exercise excessively
  • Dieting or has chaotic food intake; 
    • pretends to eat, then throws away food; 
    • skips meals 
  • Exercising for long periods and excessively 
  • Avoids nutritious foods because they are “fattening” 

Emotional signs

  • Change in attitude/performance 
  • Expresses body image complaints/concerns:
    • unable to accept compliments
    • constantly compares self to others 
    • self-disparaging; refers to self as fat, gross, ugly
    • overestimates body size
    • strives to create a “perfect” image
    • seeks constant outside reassurance about looks 
  • Appears sad/depressed/anxious/or expresses feelings of worthlessness 
  • Is the target of size or weight bullying 
  • Spends increasing amounts of time alone 
  • Overvalues self-sufficiency; reluctant to ask for help 

Physical Signs

  • Sudden weight loss, gain, or fluctuation in short time 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Feeling full or “bloated” 
  • Feeling faint, cold, or tired 
  • Dry hair or skin, dehydration, blue hands/feet 
  • Lanugo hair (fine body hair)