• 4 Common Types of Eating Disorders You Should Know About

    by Caroline Ryther
    on Aug 9th, 2018

When talking about eating disorders, a lot of people will say that these are just phases or lifestyle choices even, and that you can probably decide to go back to normal eating whenever you want to. The truth, however, is far, far from that, because eating disorders are actually serious mental disorders that cannot and should not be ignored.

Around 10 million men and 20 million women have or have had an eating disorder at some point in their lives—and that’s just the US alone. In fact, eating disorders are so common in the United States, that they have been recognized as mental disorders by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Not only do eating disorders affect people physically, but also socially and psychologically, completely changing someone’s way of life. If left untreated, they can cause significant health issues and have life-threatening consequences, as well.

Eating disorders usually come from an obsession with body weight, body shape, and food, and they are expressed through either disturbed or abnormal eating habits. Symptoms vary depending on the disorder in question, but they often include food binges, severe restriction of food, over-exercising, and/or vomiting.

These disorders are more common among adolescents and women, and can be caused by different factors, such as genetics, personality traits (e.g. perfectionists and impulsive people have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder), and the so-called “ideal of thinness” (predominant in Western cultures). Recently, experts even suggested that brain structure and biology may also be the cause of eating disorders, specifically serotonin and dopamine levels.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about the four most common types of eating disorders and how you can recognize them (symptoms) if you believe that someone you know is suffering from one of them.

1. Anorexia Nervosa

Probably the most well-known eating disorder out of all of them, anorexia nervosa (or simply, anorexia) develops during adolescence or young adulthood, and people who have it generally view themselves as overweight (even if they’re seriously underweight) and tend to severely restrict what they eat.

Common symptoms of anorexia include being considerably underweight, having very restricted eating patterns, having a distorted body image (including denial about being underweight), living in constant fear of gaining weight and avoiding gaining weight at all cost, pursuing a thin body, and having low self-esteem due to the distorted body image.

Obsessive-compulsive symptoms are not uncommon among people with anorexia—they will often be preoccupied with food and collecting “healthy” recipes, and have difficulty eating in public, where they can’t control their environment.

Anorexia can be of restricting nature and binge-eating/purging nature. If it’s the former, individuals will do their best to lose weight through starvation and excessive exercising. When it comes to the latter, patients will vomit on purpose, take laxatives or diuretics, and exercise every time after they eat.

Brittle hair, thin bones, and infertility are some of the consequences of anorexia, but severe cases can end in brain, heart or multi-organ failure and, ultimately, death.

2. Bulimia Nervosa

Just like anorexia, bulimia develops in teenage or young adulthood years, but unlike anorexia, people with bulimia often eat extremely large amounts of food, in a short period of time, until they are painfully full.

Afterwards, patients suffering from bulimia attempt to vomit, exercise, take laxatives and diuretics in order to feel better both in physically and psychologically (they feel guilty about eating so many calories).

Symptoms are similar to those of the binge eating type of anorexia, including repeated episodes of binge eating and then purging, low self-esteem due to the distorted body image, and a fear of gaining weight. However, where anorexic people lose weight during these episodes, bulimic individuals often maintain a relatively normal weight.

Hormonal disbalance, tooth decay, and acid reflux are just some of the consequences that follow bulimia—in severe cases, bulimia will cause an imbalance in body levels of electrolytes, which can eventually lead to a stroke or a heart attack.

3. Avoidant or Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) was once known as a "feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood”. This diagnosis used to be reserved for children who were not older than seven, but it was found that it can persist into adulthood. Those with ARFID have disturbed eating patterns, usually because of a distaste for certain tastes, smells, textures, colors, or temperatures, or simply a lack of interest in eating.

Symptoms include restricting food or avoiding it altogether (thus not getting sufficient nutrients and calories), having eating habits that don’t allow individuals to function normally in social situations (eating with others, for example), and losing weight excessively and failing to develop normally.

It’s important to remember that patients with AFRID are just as medically compromised as patients with anorexia or bulimia. A lot of times, ARFID co-occurs with other anxiety disorders, such as comorbid anxiety disorder.

4. Binge Eating

Like anorexia and bulimia, binge eating typically develops in adolescence and early adulthood, but it has been known to occur later in life, too. Symptoms are similar to those of bulimia and the binge-eating subtype of anorexia—this means that patients have no self-restraint when it comes to eating and will eat unusually large amounts of food in a short span of time.

The main difference between binge eating and anorexia and bulimia is that individuals with the binge eating disorder do not attempt to restrict calories or purge them after they’ve eaten. They often eat in secret, despite not feeling hungry, and feel shame, disgust or guilt when eating. A lot of times, people turn to binge eating in order to try an deal with unpleasant emotions or stress, anxiety, or depression.

People with this disorder are usually overweight or obese, which can increase the risk of them having a stroke, a heart attack, or type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives.


Do you or someone you know have an eating disorder? Dr. Best and the Neuroscience Center are here to help you get better and put you on the road to recovery.

Schedule your consultation as soon as today:

Phone: 847-306-8938

Email: pm@mind.md

Author Caroline Ryther

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