29/09/2014 08:18 BST | Updated 28/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Psychological Signs of an Eating Disorder

An eating disorder not only manifests itself physically, but also psychologically. It is an extremely complex mental illness that often takes many years of both physical and psychological treatment, in order to recover. If you notice that someone you know is showing these psychological signs they might be suffering from an eating disorder. You must remember that these are just common indications and they should not be taken as fact.


Perfectionism is a very common psychological sign associated with eating disorders. Many eating disorder sufferers will be perfectionists who have much higher standards than other people. These high standards are often unrealistic and not achievable. A person with an eating disorder will often believe that nothing is ever good enough, including weight loss.

Black and White Mentality

In most cases, an eating disorder sufferer will have a clear, extreme, black and white approach to things. There is often no middle ground for a person with an eating disorder. They will most likely categorise situations into either "good" or "bad". An "all or nothing" way of thinking is a common psychological sign associated with eating disorders.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is perhaps the most well-known psychological sign linked to eating disorders. It is no surprise that, in most cases someone with an eating disorder has a low self-worth. They will often define themselves by their weight or the way they eat on a certain day. They may have a poor body image and may constantly compare themselves to other people. An eating disorder sufferer will be most likely always trying to find ways to improve themselves and change their appearance.


Distrust can be a psychological symptom of an eating disorder. It is common for someone with an eating disorder to distrust the opinions of other people. They will struggle to believe someone who tells them that they have lost weight or that they are too skinny. They are often also very distrusting of situations involving food. This distrust can sometimes transpire into their relationships with their friends, family and lovers.


There is no doubt that control is an important factor in the development of an eating disorder. Many sufferers turn their focus onto changing their bodies because they feel it is the only thing they can control in their lives. This desire to control their bodies may be a result of a traumatic experience, a loss, or a situation that they felt was out of their control. They may turn to food and weight as a means of taking back control. If they feel that they have lost control, for example, by eating too much or not burning enough calories during exercise, they can become very distressed, anxious or angry.

The psychological symptoms of an eating disorder vary largely from one person to the next. These signs may be commonly associated with eating disorders, but they are not absolute proof that someone is or is not suffering from an eating disorder.