5 Signs You May Have a History of Eating Disorders (Even if You Didn’t Know It)
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Eating disorders often go under the radar. Symptoms can range drastically in how they show up and how severe they are, and many are easy to justify or hide—even from yourself. This, in combination with a diet culture-obsessed society that normalizes many eating disorder behaviors, means that it’s possible to have gone through an eating disorder without even realizing it at the time. In fact, many people navigate eating disorder symptoms for years without ever getting a diagnosis or treatment. It’s not uncommon for adults with eating disorders to reflect back and realize they were unknowingly suffering earlier in their life as well.

If you’re concerned about your current habits around food, weight, or your body, it can be helpful to reflect on the past to determine if you have a history of eating disorders. Doing so can help you prevent a relapse and better understand what drives your behaviors today.

Read on to learn what it means to have a history of eating disorders, signs that you have experienced one in the past, and what to do if you have a relapse.

Is it possible to not realize you have a history of eating disorders?

It’s possible for people to not realize that they're struggling with an eating disorder or were in the past. For one thing, it can be hard to identify harmful eating patterns when they’re so normalized in society. There are also limiting stereotypes about who gets eating disorders, and many people feel like they don’t fit into that image or believe they’re not “sick enough” to qualify for a diagnosis. For example, it’s a common perception that you must be underweight to have an eating disorder, when in reality the majority of people with an eating disorder are at weights considered normal or above normal.

However, hindsight is 20/2, as they say, so it’s sometimes easier to reflect back and see that behaviors from your past aligned with the nutritional, behavioral, psychological, or emotional symptoms of an eating disorder. While it may be a bit confusing or shocking to recognize that you have a history of eating disorders, it’s important that you use this insight to help you today. Seeing your past behaviors in a new light can help you distance yourself from any disordered habits you may still be holding onto and get any support that might help you now.

5 signs that you have a history of eating disorders

Every type of eating disorder has its own symptoms, but there are some general patterns that can point to a potential eating disorder that was left untreated. By reflecting on your past and looking for these patterns, you may be able to recognize signs of a history with eating disorders. Acknowledging these signs will help you gain a better understanding of what you need in your life now to achieve lasting healing.

Here are five signs that you may have a history of eating disorders:

  1. Restricted intake: Eating disorders such as anorexia and ARFID often result in restricting the quantity or types of food eaten. This can mean that you’ve gone through points in your life where you reduced your food intake significantly, or eliminated certain foods or food groups altogether.
  2. Consistently dieting: There isn’t just one type of diet. New ones pop up all the time, and many pretend they’re not diets by hiding behind terms like “lifestyle changes,” or “wellness.” If you realize that you’ve spent much of your life on one diet or another in the hopes of achieving a certain body ideal, that could be an indication of past disordered eating.
  3. Gastrointestinal issues: While it’s natural to feel an upset stomach every now and then, an eating disorder can cause recurring gastrointestinal issues that affect your quality of life, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and constipation. If you’ve experienced these issues for extended periods of time, it may indicate a past eating disorder.
  4. Skipping meals or frequently eating alone: A lack of appetite and struggling to eat in front of others are both common eating disorder symptoms that can lead to skipping meals. If you found that you were deliberately missing meals, and making excuses like “I’m not hungry” or “I already had a big meal earlier,” you may have been struggling with an eating disorder. In addition, eating additional meals in isolation can be a sign of binge eating disorder.
  5. Intense focus on weight and body shape: It can sometimes be difficult to not be critical of your own body, especially as you’re growing up and struggling to feel comfortable in your own skin. But being hyperfixated on losing weight, changing your body, or fixing your “flaws” are common signs of an eating disorder.

What to do if you have a history of eating disorders and experience a relapse

Due to the complex nature of eating disorders, which stem from a confluence of biological, psychological, and environmental factors, people can struggle with eating disorders for many years if they don’t get the right treatment. Relapse is also a relatively common part of the recovery journey, with the relapse rate for all eating disorders somewhere between 22% and 51%.

If you recognize that you may have struggled with an eating disorder in the past and are still struggling today, it’s time to seek help. All eating disorders can be treated regardless of how long you’ve been dealing with them, and it’s never too late to take the first step toward recovery.

Realizing that you have a history of eating disorders can be an emotional experience, but it can also be empowering to put symptoms you may have been quietly struggling with into the context of a diagnosable medical condition. If you didn’t get proper support in the past and are now experiencing a relapse (or if the symptoms never really went away), the good news is that there are evidence-based treatment options out there to help you achieve lasting recovery. Equip, for example, is a virtual treatment program that allows you to heal from home, with evidence-based treatment and wraparound support that fits into your life. Lasting healing is possible, and we’re here to help you get there.

Get in touch with our team today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

About Tana Luo, PhD

Dr. Tana Luo, Equip’s Director of Program Development, is a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. She completed her predoctoral and postdoctoral training at the UC San Diego Eating Disorders Center. She specializes in treating pediatric and adolescent eating disorders and has in-depth experience working with children, adolescents, and adults at different levels of care.


1. Keel, Pamela K., et al.”Postremission Predictors of Relapse in Women with Eating Disorders.” American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 162, no. 12, 2005, pp. 2263-68. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16330589/

Kate Willsky
Senior Manager, Content
Clinically reviewed by:
Tana Luo, PhD
Director of Program Development at Equip
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