Nervous Eaters

Important Information About Nervous Eaters

People that are nervous eaters typically are diagnosed with having social anxiety disorder.  Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are two pain types of illnesses that most people in this category fall under.  Because so many people with these disorders hide their illness from others and do not seek treatment, it is nearly impossible to offer an accurate statistic of how many people are plagued with either one.

People that have bulimia nervosa are characterized by their binge-purge cycle of eating.  They eat an extremely large serving of food and then aim to get it quickly out of their system by vomiting, abusing diuretics, taking laxatives or engaging in excessive exercise.  Individuals with anorexia nervosa are exceptionally nervous eaters and are so fearful of becoming overweight that they restrict their food intake severely, which often results in starvation and serious health issues.

Eating Disorders vs Social Anxiety Disorders

Many social anxiety disorder symptoms are quite similar to those experienced by nervous eaters and habits of those with eating disorders.  A common symptom of both is having a fear of eating in public but the motivation behind the behavior is quite different.  People that have anorexia are concerned with becoming overweight or being judged while eating in public.

Individuals that have social anxiety disorder are not concerned directly with eating, but rather of those around them viewing their anxiety symptoms, such as spilled food or trembling hands.  Social anxiety disorder sufferers traditionally have a variety of social fears that add to being nervous eaters where individuals strictly with eating disorders rarely have any additional social anxiety traits.


According to a study performed by the well-known American Journal of Psychiatry on 672 people that suffered from eating disorders, two-thirds of them also were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder of some type as well.  Approximately 40 percent of these nervous eaters were diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder while 20 percent were diagnosed with having social anxiety disorder.

Also, individuals that have social anxiety disorder first are more likely to develop bulimia or anorexia as a result.  Although it is still being investigated, it is believed that the brain chemical known as serotonin is responsible for both disorders.

Many researchers suggest that the thought of being perceived in a negative way by those around many make these individuals vulnerable to being plagued with the obsession of reaching what they believe to be an ideal body weight.  Therefore, it is always recommended that anyone who is diagnosed with having social anxiety disorders, as well as their family members, be made aware of eating disorder symptoms to evaluate their eating habits.


Whether individuals are nervous eaters because they have eating disorders or a social anxiety disorder, treatment has to target body image, food issues and an assortment of social anxiety issues as well.  Most patients undergo a combination of psychotherapy along with specific medications to treat social anxiety disorders.  However, individuals who are extremely underweight because of anorexia nervosa are usually not good candidates for medication, nor is it recommended until they reach a weight that is not considered dangerous or severely unhealthy.

If you or someone that you know is portraying nervous signs when it comes to eating alone or in public, it is important to seek medical attention.  While social anxiety disorders are treatable when the cause of the issue is determined, eating disorders are extremely dangerous and can be potentially fatal.  Only a qualified physician can determine the best treatment approach for both disorders to actually target them each as individual illnesses, while taking caution and being aware of the complications that the combination may result in together.