Behaviors and Characteristics

Many of the following behavioral characteristics have been observed among eating-disorder patients

Dieting, restricting, fasting

Bingeing – a typical binge consists of 3,000 to 10,000 calories being ingested between 20-40 minutes

Purging – by self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, use of ipecac, diet pills, diuretics, and/or compulsive over-exercise.

Food rituals such as cutting and dicing food into small pieces, arranging food in a particular way on the plate, chewing a certain number of times before swallowing.

  • Collecting recipes, food coupons
  • Obsessing, counting calories, fat grams
  • Cooking and baking for others
  • Discomfort when eating with others
  • Secret hoarding and/or secretive eating of food
  • Shoplifting, petty thievery (often to get food)
  • Fear of inability to stop eating
  • Constant preoccupation with food, weight, body size and shape
  • Layered, loose fitting clothing
  • Excessive activity, restlessness, insomnia, early morning awakening
  • Chemical dependency
  • Promiscuity – a reflection of poor impulse control sometimes seen in bulimic patients
  • Obsessive – compulsive behaviors
  • Isolation
  • Suicide attempt
  • People pleasing behavior, seeking external validation
  • Poor impulse control
  • Intense preoccupation with food, weight, appearance, image
  • Intense fear of becoming “fat”
  • Distorted body image (feeling fat when thin)
  • Perfectionism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of intimacy: issues of trust, honesty, and control
  • Difficulty identifying and expressing feelings (alexthymia)
  • Difficulty asking for help
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety – difficulty handling stress
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Dichotomous thinking (“all” or “nothing”)

Anorexics usually deny having a problem, saying that everything is “under control” and claiming, “You’re only trying to make me fat.”

Bulimics and compulsive over-eaters, on the other hand, know their behavior is problematic but feel intense feelings of shame and guilt and may deny the behaviors in an attempt to maintain secrecy.