Different Types of Eating Disorders: Explained

There are different types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, pica, rumination syndrome, and others. Here, we will explain 6 common types of eating disorders.

Eating Disorder

What are Different Types of Eating Disorders?

A large group of people suffer from eating disorders, some of them eat excessively and become obese, and some of them refuse food and do not eat sufficient quantities necessary for the body, to this extent the matter is controllable.

But there are people who suffer from disorders caused by mental illness. For example, some of them eat excessively and get rid of it by vomiting afterward, so the types of eating disorders differ and are considered a serious matter that needs medical intervention, so what eating disorders according to DSM 5, what are their types, and how are they treated?

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are a group of psychological conditions that lead to the development of unhealthy eating habits. They may start with an obsession with food or an obsession with body weight or shape.

In severe cases, eating disorders can develop and cause serious health consequences and may even result in death if left untreated.

People with eating disorders can have a variety of symptoms and behaviors such as overeating and then inducing vomiting or over-exercising.

Eating disorders can affect women and men at any stage of life, but the risks are more common among young adolescent girls who are obsessed with weight loss and fitness.

Types of Eating Disorders

There are several types of eating disorders that differ in terms of symptoms, causes and consequences. Here, we will explain 6 common types of eating disorders: 

1. Anorexia nervosa: 

Anorexia nervosa is the most common and famous eating disorder that causes people to become obsessed with weight and what they eat. 

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a distorted body image, with an unwarranted fear of being overweight. People with anorexia generally struggle with abnormally low body weight or think that they are overweight and try to reduce calories significantly. It generally develops during adolescence or adulthood and tends to affect women more than men.

Physical symptoms and signs of anorexia may include:

  • Significantly less weight compared to people of the same age and height.
  • Intense fear of gaining weight, along with continuing behaviors to avoid gaining weight despite significant weight loss.
  • Thin appearance.
  • Abnormal blood counts.
  • Irregular heart rhythms.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Swelling of arms or legs.
  • Bluish discoloration of the fingers.
  • Absence of menstruation.
  • Intolerance of cold.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Dehydration.
  • Dry or yellowish skin.
  • Constipation and abdominal pain.
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out.
  • Soft, downy hair covering the body.

The symptoms are also evident with a significant effect of body weight on the patient’s mental health. He looks at his body in a distorted way. He denies weight loss, and the patient in this type has weak self-esteem.

Emotional and behavioral symptoms and signs may include:

  • Frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat.
  • Eating only a few certain "safe" foods, usually those low in fat and calories.
  • Denial of hunger or making excuses for not eating.
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as spitting food out after chewing.
  • Not wanting to eat in public.
  • Preoccupation with food, which sometimes includes cooking elaborate meals for others but not eating them.
  • Lying about how much food has been eaten.
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws.
  • Fear of gaining weight that may include repeated weighing or measuring the body.
  • Flat mood (lack of emotion).
  • Covering up in layers of clothing.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Reduced interest in sex.
  • Complaining about being fat or having parts of the body that are fat.

2. Bulimia Nervosa: 

Bulimia nervosa is a serious psychological eating disorder in which the patient has episodes of binge eating; eats large quantities of food in a short period of time, the problem continues until the patient feels pain from the amount he ingested. 

Bulimia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder.

Bulimia appears to be less common among men than women. Like anorexia, bulimia tends to develop during adolescence and early adulthood.

The symptoms of bulimia nervosa may differ from person to person.  People with bulimia may notice changes in both their body and their behavior.

Episodes of binge eating can occur with any type of food, even if they are foods that the patient usually avoids or does not desire.

Physical symptoms of bulimia can include:

  • Gaining and losing weight often.
  • Swollen glands in your neck and face.
  • Heartburn, indigestion, bloating.
  • Weakness, exhaustion, bloodshot eyes.
  • Dental problems.
  • Sore throat.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Feeling cold all the time.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Irregular periods.
  • Dry skin, and dry and brittle nails.
  • Calluses on the knuckles or backs of the hands from making a person vomit.

Behavioral symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Food rituals, like eating only certain food, chewing more than necessary, or not allowing foods to touch.
  • Vomiting or abusing laxatives or diuretics to try to lose weight.
  • Eating uncontrollably, followed by purging.
  • Skipping meals or eating only small portions during meals.
  • Using the bathroom frequently after meals.
  • Often using mints, gum, or mouthwash.
  • Avoiding friends and activities he used to enjoy.
  • Excessive exercising.
  • Hoarding or stealing food.
  • Feeling out of control.
  • Preoccupation with body weight.
  • Depression or mood swings.
  • Drinking large amounts of water or calorie-free beverages.

3. Binge eating disorder (BED):

Binge eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder. People with BED frequently consume unusually large amounts of food and feel unable to stop eating.

This disorder is similar to bulimia nervosa, as the patient eats large quantities of food within a short period and differs that the patient does not use purging behavior such as forced vomiting or excessive exercise.

BED typically begins during adolescence and early adulthood, although it can develop later on.

The signs and symptoms of binge-eating disorder include:

  • The patient feels lost control of food and eats without being able to stop.
  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as over a two-hour period.
  • Frequently eating alone or in secret.
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss.
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes.
  • Eating even when you're full or not hungry.
  • Eating until you're uncomfortably full.
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Feeling ashamed or guilty when considering binge eating behavior.
  • Patients with this type of obesity suffer and thus are at risk of diseases resulting from obesity, such as heart disease.

4. Pica (Eating Disorder):

Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating things that are not considered food. Patients with this type eat ice, dirt, soap, cloth, pebbles, or chalk.

Although it occurs at all ages, adults, as well as children and adolescents. This is most frequently observed in children, pregnant women, and people with mental disabilities.

Patients with Pica are at risk of poisoning, infections, intestinal injuries, and nutritional deficiencies, and depending on the substances ingested, a disorder of this type may be fatal.

Repeatedly eating nonfood items over a period of time can cause: Lead poisoning, an intestinal blockage or tear, injuries to teeth, and infections; from organisms and parasites that get inside the body and cause disease.

The symptoms of pica may include:

  • Pain in the stomach or abdominal cramping; which can indicate that there may be an intestinal blockage.
  • Stomach ulcers (which may cause blood in the stools).
  • An intestinal blockage from eating non-food items that cannot be digested and end up blocking up the intestine.
  • Bowel problems (such as constipation or diarrhea).
  • Infections caused by germs and/or parasites that enter the body from the nonfood item that is swallowed.
  • Injuries to teeth (such as broken or fractured teeth from chewing on hard non-food items).
  • Behavior problems.
  • Fatigue.
  • School problems.
  • Symptoms of poor nutrition or lead poisoning if paint chips that contain lead are ingested.

5. Rumination disorder:

Rumination is a rare and chronic condition in which the patient vomits food that he previously chewed, rechews it, and either swallows it again or spits it out.

This rumination typically occurs during the first 30 minutes after a meal. 

Rumination is not similar to medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux. This rumination typically occurs during the first 30 minutes after a meal, this can develop during infancy, childhood, or adulthood. 

Adults with this disorder may reduce the amount of food they eat and this may lead to significant weight loss. 

In infants, it usually resolves on its own. If the disorder is not resolved, it can lead to weight loss and severe malnutrition that can be fatal. 

The signs and symptoms of rumination syndrome include:

  • Effortless regurgitation, typically within 10 minutes of eating.
  • Regurgitating and re-chewing food on a regular basis.
  • Abdominal pain or pressure relieved by regurgitation.
  • Diarrhea or constipation, depending on the situation.
  • Headache and dizziness with difficulty sleeping.
  • Dental problems, such as bad breath and tooth decay.
  • A feeling of fullness.
  • Weight loss.
  • Chapped lips.
  • Digestive problems, such as indigestion and stomach aches.

6. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder:

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a condition characterized by the person having restricted intake in terms of the overall amount eaten, or avoiding certain foods or types of food.

Although ARFID generally develops during infancy or early childhood, it can persist into adulthood.

This was previously referred to as “Selective Eating Disorder.  It was previously diagnosed for children under the age of seven, but later it was known that it extends into adulthood and does not end at the age of seven.

Patients suffer from this type of eating disorder, either due to a lack of interest in eating or due to an aversion to some smells or tastes.

Physical signs of avoidant restrictive food intake disorder may include: 

  • Stopped growing or gaining weight.
  • Losing weight, because teens stop growing eventually.
  • No growth or delayed growth.

Behavioural signs of ARFID may include:

  • Fear of choking or vomiting.
  • Sudden refusal to eat foods.
  • No appetite for no known reason.
  • Very slow eating.
  • Difficulty eating meals with family or friends.

Other Types of Eating Disorders

In addition to the 6 eating disorders above, some less common eating disorders also exist, including: 

Purging disorder: It is an eating disorder characterized by the compulsion to purge after consuming food. People with this disorder often use purging behaviors, such as vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or excessive exercising.

Night eating syndrome: NES is an eating disorder characterized by a delayed circadian pattern of food intake. People with this syndrome frequently eat excessively, often after awakening from sleep.

Other specified feeding or eating disorder: OSFED is an eating disorder classification for those who have symptoms similar to those of an eating disorder but don’t fit into any of the categories above. 

OSFED has replaced “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) in the DSM-5.

Orthorexia is a disorder that may currently fall under OSFED.

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