Eating disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. They affect people from all backgrounds and don’t discriminate based on gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Much of the conversation around eating disorders focuses on the more well-known disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. However, there are more eating disorders out there that aren’t as commonly known, but wreck the same degree of havoc on peoples lives.
People often mistake Compulsive Overeating (COE) for binge eating disorder. They’re similar but have one key difference. People with COE habitually graze on large qualities of food throughout the day, rather than binge on large quantities at once, which is typical for binge eating disorder. Individuals who struggle with compulsive overeating can be described as suffering from a type of food addiction, where they are unable to control how much they eat.
Orthorexia nervosa is a term used to characterize individuals that have an obsession with a healthy eating habits. These individuals become obsessed with avoiding unhealthy foods to the point where it interferes with their life. It is essentially an extreme form of healthy dieting, which shares characteristics with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). This eating disorder is different from other restrictive eating patterns, in that orthorexia patients are focused on the quality of food they intake, as opposed to the quantity, like with anorexia.
Selective eating disorder (SED) can sometimes appear to external observers as just picky eating. This type of eating disorder is characterized by the inability to consume certain foods based on the food’s appearance, smell, taste, or texture. This disorder is commonly found among children and adolescents. Unlike picky eating, SED can significantly interfere with a person’s life, causing anxiety and depression, as well as avoidance and social impairment.
“Drunkorexia” is a silly sounding colloquial name for a very serious condition. It refers to individuals with an eating disorder combined with chronic alcohol abuse. It is characterized by self-imposed starvation or binge eating/purging behavior in order to reserve calories for alcohol intake. Patients essentially don’t eat, or binge eat and then purge, to ensure they take in most of their calories from alcohol. The secondary gain is that by starving themselves, it allows them to become more inebriated when they drink. Excessive exercising is also a common co-occurring problem that accompanies excessive drinking and disordered eating.
Gourmand syndrome is a rare condition that sometimes develops when people sustain injuries to their right frontal lobe. These patients develop a post-injury passion and obsession for gourmet or fine foods. It’s characterized by an obsessive focus on eating, thinking, talking, and writing about fine foods. It is largely considered a benign condition, and is believed to be caused by damage to the circuits in the brain that dictate healthy eating.
Eating disorders, even the more obscure ones, are serious and impact thousands every day. While it may appear on the surface that someone suffering from orthorexia or selective eating disorder may just be picky or dieting, the degree of these conditions negatively impact their lives. Eating disorders can have lifelong consequences and are one of the most deadly mental illnesses, in that they contribute to a number of health problems and contribute to an increased risk of suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder please contact us. Treatment is difficult but possible!