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Common Types of Eating Disorders

An eating disorder can lead to serious health problems, but treatment is available. This article will discuss eating disorders and how you can get help.

What are Eating Disorders?

An eating disorder is a mental disorder that occurs when eating, exercise and body image become unhealthy preoccupations.

Nutrition and exercise are things all of us should keep in mind to stay healthy and active. But placing a disproportionate emphasis on food and/or fitness could create the necessary conditions for an eating disorder to develop. This article will discuss types of eating disorders and possible treatments.

Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder

How are Eating Disorders Diagnosed?

An eating disorder diagnosis is obtained through physical and psychological evaluations. Doctors will measure a patient’s symptoms and characteristics against guidelines outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).1

How Common are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are fairly common, with about 9% of the U.S, and at least 9% of the international population, suffers with an eating disorder.2

Who Suffers the Most from Eating Disorders?

Teenage girls are the most likely population to be affected by an eating disorder. However, anyone is susceptible, especially as images of distorted bodies become more prevalent in mass media.

Emotional and Behavioral Eating Disorder Symptoms

There are many eating disorder symptoms to look out for. These include:

  • Eating Alone or Hiding Food: A person with an eating disorder may eat alone because they are ashamed to eat in public. They may hide food to make it seem as if they have eaten it or, if they are affected by binge eating disorder (BED), they may stash food to eat in secret. 
  • Skipping Meals: Skipping meals is an eating disorder sign that may appear in a person who wants to lose weight. 
  • Intense Fear of Gaining Weight: A person with an eating disorder may be so afraid of gaining weight that they may experience panic attacks if they feel they have overeaten.
  • Distorted Body Image: Eating disorder sufferers may experience perceiving their appearance in the mirror as larger than it really is. An individual’s distorted self-perception may remain unchanged despite changes in actual shape or size.
  • Extreme Mood Swings: Eating disorders are commonly characterized by extreme mood swings.
  • Checking the Mirror Often: An individual with an eating disorder problem may check the mirror often as they are likely to be obsessed with monitoring their physical appearance. 

Types of Eating Disorders

There are many types of eating disorders that exist. They will be detailed below.

Anorexia Nervosa

Symptoms for anorexia nervosa include depriving oneself of food to reach an unhealthy weight. This is often coupled with an unrealistic body image and an intense fear of gaining weight.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by consuming large amounts of food in a short timespan, and then engaging in purging behaviors (e.g. self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, excessive exercise) to avoid gaining weight.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

BED is an eating disorder in which sufferers consume large amounts of food at one time. These binging episodes are oftentimes described by sufferers as uncontrollable, or as if they were on “auto-pilot.”


Pica is an eating disorder characterized by the act of eating non-food items that have no nutritional value.3 The disorder gets its name (Pica) from the Latin word for “magpie,” a bird which was said to have had an appetite for anything.4

Rumination Disorder

Rumination disorder is a rare eating disorder that involves bringing food back up from the stomach which food may then be rechewed and then redigested, or spat out.

Avoidant /Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is a newly recognized type of eating disorder that is similar to anorexia but does not involve a distorted body image.5

What Causes Eating Disorders?

There are several potential factors which may lead to the development of an eating disorder. Factors may generally be categorized into three types:

  • Biological Factors: Biology may be a factor in a person who feels they are big boned or prone to weight gain. They may become bulimic or anorexic to try and change their body type.
  • Psychological Factors: People that suffer from a mental disorder may find comfort in overeating or undereating.
  • Environmental Factors: An eating disorder may occur because a person experiences social pressure from their family and/or friends to be a certain shape or size, or potentially due to the influences of unrealistic body standards modeled by those whom they are exposed to in the media

Risks of Eating Disorders

People will be at high risk for developing eating disorder behaviors in the following situations.

  • Family History: A person who has a close family member with an eating disorder will be more likely to develop one themselves.
  • Other Mental Health Disorders: Individuals may develop an eating disorder problem because it relieves anxiety and depression associated with mental illness.
  • Dieting and Starvation: A person that routinely engages in restrictive dieting may become obsessed with their weight, creating circumstances where it may be more likely for an eating disorder to develop.
  • Stress: A person with an eating disorder may use food to relieve stress. For some, restricting food intake may act as a short-term relief from anxiety or stress.

Complications of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can lead to very serious conditions including:

Health Problems Associated with Anorexia

People with anorexia may develop:

  • Gallstones
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart disease
  • Diminished muscle tone
  • Kidney problems
  • Dehydration

Health Problems Associated with Binge Eating Disorder

People with Binge Eating Disorder may be prone to:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Low mortality rate

Depression and Anxiety

Many people develop eating disorders in efforts to relieve feelings of depression and anxiety, but the negative effects of disordered eating tend to exacerbate these feelings over time.

Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

Depression and anxiety can become so severe in eating disordered patients that they may result in suicidal thoughts and/or self-harm.

Problems with Growth and Development

People who develop eating disorders at an early age may experience delayed physiological development. This effect can usually be reversed through restoration to an appropriate weight. In rare and severe cases, problems with growth and development may persist even after the individual has been restored to a healthy weight.  

Social and Relationship Problems

An obsession with food and body image can lead to social and relationship problems.  

Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder Treatment

An eating disorder can greatly reduce quality of life and interfere with a person’s overall wellness, but eating disorder treatment is available. Eating disorder treatment typically involves a combination of mental health interventions, but may also require nutritional supplements to ensure you are adequately nourished and hydrated. Medications, such as antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications, may also be potentially integrated into your treatment.

If you are looking for help to overcome your eating disorder, A New Treatment Center is here for you. We take a customized approach to create treatment plans best suited to our clients’ needs. We use a combination of therapeutic approaches to ensure you achieve the ultimate in wellness.

Eating disorders are hard to fight but Anew Treatment Center will give you the tools you need to move forward from this difficult time. Contact us today to find out how you can achieve a happier, healthier way of living.  

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