What are the 6 Main Types of Eating Disorders?
You may mistakenly think of eating disorders as phases, fads, or lifestyle choices. They are actually serious mental disorders which impact you physically, psychologically and socially. Eating disorders should be taken very seriously. They can be life-threatening.
What Are Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are conditions expressed through abnormal eating habits. Have you ever experienced an obsession of some sort, over food, body weight or body shame, for instance? Most eating disorders include the severe restriction of food, food binges or inappropriate purging behaviors like vomiting or over-exercising. Although eating disorders can affect males and females at any age or stage of life, they’re most often reported in adolescents and young women.
If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, we can help. Have a confidential conversation with a counselor right now. Call (844) 747-7772.
6 Main Types of Eating Disorders (and Their Symptoms)
Here’s a breakdown of six of the most common types of eating disorders and their symptoms:
1. Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is likely the most well-known eating disorder. It generally develops during adolescence or young adulthood and tends to affect more women than men. Anorexia Nervosa sufferers generally view themselves as overweight, even if they’re dangerously underweight. They tend to constantly monitor their weight, avoid eating certain types of foods and severely restrict their calories.
Common symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
- Being considerably underweight compared to people of similar age and height.
- Very restricted eating patterns.
- An intense fear of gaining weight or persistent behaviors to avoid gaining weight, despite being underweight.
- A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight.
- A heavy influence of body weight or perceived body shape on self-esteem.
- A distorted body image, including denial of being seriously underweight.
Anorexia is officially categorized into two subtypes—a restricting type and a binge-eating and purging type. If you’re experiencing the restrictive type, you may lose weight solely through dieting, fasting or excessive exercise. Individuals with the binge-eating and purging type may binge on large amounts of food or eat very little. In both cases, after they eat, they purge using activities including vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics or exercising excessively. In severe cases, anorexia can result in heart, brain or multi-organ failure and death.
2. Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is another well-known eating disorder. Like anorexia, bulimia tends to develop during adolescence and early adulthood and appears to be less common among men than women. Bulimia sufferers binge eat—frequently eat unusually large amounts of food in a relatively short period. They then attempt to purge to compensate for the calories consumed and relieve discomfort. Forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas and excessive exercise are the main means of purging. In practice, bulimia appears similar to anorexia nervosa. Individuals with bulimia, however, usually maintain a relatively normal weight, rather than becoming underweight.
Common symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating, with a feeling of lack of control
- Recurrent episodes of inappropriate purging behaviors to prevent weight gain
- A self-esteem overly influenced by body shape and weight
- A fear of gaining weight, despite having a normal weight
Side effects of bulimia may include an inflamed and sore throat, swollen salivary glands, worn tooth enamel, tooth decay, acid reflux, abdominal irritation, severe dehydration and hormonal disturbances. In severe cases, bulimia can cause a stroke or heart attack.
3. Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating has only officially been recognized as an eating disorder recently. It is currently believed to be one of the most common eating disorders. Sufferers of this disorder have similar symptoms to those with bulimia or the binge-eating subtype of anorexia. For instance, they typically eat unusually large amounts of food in relatively short periods of time and usually feel a lack of control during binges. But contrary to the two previous disorders, people with binge eating disorder do not restrict calories or use purging behaviors such as vomiting or excessive exercise to compensate for their binges.
Common symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
- Eating large amounts of foods rapidly, in secret and until uncomfortably full, despite not feeling hungry.
- Feeling a lack of control during episodes of binge eating.
- Feelings of distress, such as shame, disgust or guilt, when thinking about the binge-eating behavior.
- No use of purging behaviors, such as calorie restriction, vomiting, excessive exercise or laxative or diuretic use, to compensate for the binging.
People with binge eating disorder are often overweight or obese. This may increase their risk of medical complications linked to excess weight, such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Pica is another newer condition, only recently recognized as an eating disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Pica sufferers crave non-food substances such as ice, dirt, soil, chalk, soap, paper, hair, cloth, wool, pebbles, laundry detergent or cornstarch. Pica can occur in adults, as well as children and adolescents. That said, this disorder is most frequently observed in children, pregnant women and individuals with mental disabilities.
Individuals with pica may be at an increased risk of poisoning, infections, injuries and nutrition deficiencies. Depending on the substances ingested, pica may be fatal.
5. Rumination Disorder
Rumination disorder is another newly recognized eating disorder. It describes a condition in which a person regurgitates food they have previously chewed and swallowed, re-chews it and then either re-swallows it or spits it out. This typically occurs within 30 minutes of having eaten a meal. Children and adults with the condition usually require therapy to resolve it.
If not resolved, rumination disorder can result in weight loss and severe malnutrition that can be fatal.
6. Avoidant or Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a new name for an old disorder. It actually replaces what was known as a “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood,” a diagnosis previously reserved for children under seven years old.
Although ARFID generally develops during infancy or early childhood, it can persist into adulthood. What’s more, it is equally common in men and women. Sufferers experience disturbed eating either due to a lack of interest in eating or a distaste for certain smells, tastes, colors, textures or temperatures.
Common symptoms of ARFID include:
- Avoidance or restriction of food intake that prevents the person from eating sufficient calories or nutrients.
- Eating habits that interfere with normal social functions, such as eating with others.
- Weight loss or poor development for age and height.
- Nutrient deficiencies or dependence on supplements or tube feeding.
ARFID goes beyond normal behaviors, such as picky eating in childhood or a lower food intake in adults. If not resolved, ARFID can result in weight loss and severe malnutrition that can be fatal.
Other Eating Disorders
In addition to the six main eating disorders above, lesser-known or less common eating disorders also exist. These generally fall under one of three categories: (1) purging disorders, (2) night-eating syndrome, or (3) eating-disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).
The Bottom Line
Eating disorders are mental disorders with seriously damaging physical and emotional consequences. They are not fads, phases or something that someone consciously chooses to take part in.
If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, seek help from a healthcare practitioner that specializes in eating disorders. Don’t know where to turn? We can help.
The Honey Lake Clinic Difference
Here at Honey Lake Clinic, our experienced staff, licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists understand that effective treatment for eating disorders requires a multifaceted, faith-based approach, involving healing of the body, mind, and spirit. Our unique treatment programs specifically and deeply address all three spheres, offering each client his or her greatest chance at wholeness and transformative growth.
This holistic approach and a combination of key factors makes our mental health program at Honey Lake Clinic different from the others in the country.
You’ll benefit from Honey Lake’s—
- Integration of a Bible-based approach and sound psychological principles
- Experienced, compassionate, and highly trained clinical staff
- Individualized treatment with a low caseload of patients per therapist
- Practical curriculum focused on decision-making mechanics and skills
- Emphasis on holistic healing of the mind, body, and spirit
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