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6 Types of Eating Disorders Explained

When the average person thinks of an eating disorder, they will likely think of anorexia nervosa and people restricting their diet excessively to lose weight. In reality, there are several types of eating disorders that manifest differently, and the cause is not always a desire to lose weight. Living with an eating disorder can be distressing, overwhelming, destructive, and, in extreme cases, potentially lethal. The recognition and treatment of eating disorders have evolved gradually, and some disorders have only been classified relatively recently.

This article outlines the main eating disorders which have been classified by The World Health Organization. However, it is important to note eating disorders are often complex and do not always fit neatly into a category.

  1. 1.Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is perhaps the most well-known eating disorder. People with anorexia purposely restrict the amount of food to lose weight. Sufferers may also exercise excessively to maximize weight loss. The condition can lead people to become obsessed with food and their weight and may continue to lose weight even when it negatively impacts their health. In extreme cases, anorexia can be fatal.

  1. 2.Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a condition whereby the person will find themselves in a cycle of binging on excessive amounts of food, before purging themselves either by forcing themselves to vomit or by abusing laxatives. The binging and purging are usually done secretly to rid themselves of the calories in an attempt to control their weight and vary in regularity depending on the severity of the condition. In addition to the psychological issues and distress, bulimia can lead to physical health issues including, fainting and dizziness, tooth damage (caused by vomiting regularly), dehydration, fatigue, dry skin, and/or muscle cramps.

  1. 3.Binge eating disorder

Everyone eats too much now and again, but this does not mean that they have a binge eating disorder. A person may be diagnosed with a binge eating disorder if they eat on a lot of food in 2 hours, feel out of control while doing so, eat quickly, and continue to eat even when they are uncomfortably full. They may continue to eat even then it is causing them pain, and many people report entering a kind of compulsive trance where they cannot stop themselves from eating. These binges usually happen in secret and are typically followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and depression.

A binge eating disorder diagnosis is typically given when a person’s bingeing episodes happen at least once per week for three months. At edentreatment.com, they have more information on the symptoms of binge eating disorder and other eating disorders, as well as advice and treatment options.

  1. 4.Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)

When a person displays an eating disorder symptom, but they do not display all the signs for a diagnosis of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, the condition is known as ‘other specified feeding or eating disorder’ or OSFED. These disorders are just as distressing and dangerous, as a person may be struggling with symptoms associated with all three conditions.

  1. 5.Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

If a person consistently fails to meet their required calorific intake and/or avoids certain foods, they may lose a lot of weight and become deficient in minerals and vitamins needed to stay healthy. Over time this condition can lead to lifelong health complications, and they may need to be tube fed to ensure they get the right nutrients.

  1. 6.Orthorexia

Orthorexia was only classified as an eating disorder in 1997 but is the term given when someone is obsessed with only eating raw or pure foods. In some cases, this might be a harmless effort to adopt a better diet, but when it develops into a compulsion which impacts a person’s physical and mental health, it can become a disorder which has been known to progress to anorexia.


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