Types of Eating Disorders

There are many misconceptions out there about eating disorders. From people think it’s a choice to people thinking they’re all the same. Understanding and validating eating disorders are important to those that do or have suffered from them. Each eating disorder diagnosis brings its own set of symptoms, signs, and consequences. Understanding the specifics of each diagnosis is important in helping those you love who suffer from them.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia, is probably the most well-known eating disorder. It is characterized by inadequate food intake that leads to a low body weight. This weight loss comes from intense fears of gaining weight and often from deep-rooted feelings of lack of control. This weight loss is achieved either through extreme dieting or heavy exercise, sometimes a combination of both.

Anorexia nervosa comes in two types. Binge-eating/purging type is when a person has a binge eating session followed by a purge of the food. This purging can either be done by vomiting or by taking laxatives. The second type of anorexia nervosa is called restricting type. Binging and purging aren’t involved here, instead, a person simply avoids all or specific types of food. With anorexia nervosa, the people suffering from it can’t see the severity of the situation and no matter how thin they get they likely see themselves as overweight.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is often forgotten about in the eating disorder conversation. It is characterized by the consumption of large amounts of food. While eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia may feature bingeing, binge eating disorder is different from them in that is isn’t followed by a purging session. There is no attempt to prevent weight gain for people with binge eating disorder.

People who suffer fro binge eating disorder feel out of control, especially during the binge session. Afterward, they feel intense shame or guilt. Unlike other eating disorders, binge eating disorder is equally common in men and women. People who suffer from this eating disorder might be overweight. A common sign is when someone goes on diets often without any weight loss. These diets are in an attempt to curve the binge eating but often to no avail.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, otherwise known simply as bulimia, is a common eating disorder today. It is when someone has frequent episodes of binge eating followed by purging episodes, most often through vomiting. Unlike anorexia, though, people with bulimia appear at an average weight though they share the same intense fear of weight gain.

Bulimics feel out of control during their binges. They often try to hide their cycles of binging and purging by hiding food wrappers and containers. They may disappear often to the bathroom, especially after having eaten.

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

When someone has eating habits that cause distress or impairment but don’t meet the criteria for another diagnosis, they get categorized under EDNOS. These diagnoses can sometimes develop into other eating disorders if not treated. Some examples of EDNOS are:

  • Atypical Anorexia Nervosa, which is when someone has the symptoms of anorexia but their weight isn’t below normal
  • Bulimia Nervosa with less frequent behaviors.
  • Binge-Eating Disorder with less frequent occurrences
  • Purging disorder, which is when someone purges but without the binge eating before hand
  • Night Eating Syndrome, which is when someone consumes an excessive amount of food during the nighttime.

Pica

Pica isn’t often thought of as an eating disorder, especially not in the same category as bulimia and anorexia. However, people with pica feel the same loss of control and the consequences can be just as severe. Pica is the persistent eating of substances that have no nutritional value. These items are not often edible, but instead are things like dirt, paint, chalk, or even large items like sofa foam.

Many people experience pica at some point in their life. Children in particular show signs of it at young ages. The eating of dirt, bugs and other objects is related to it. Pregnant women also report experience pica sometimes during their pregnancy craving things like chalk. When it lasts well into adulthood is when problems arise. Eating certain objects can cause poising or digestion blockages.

What To Do

Treating eating disorders is complicated but possible. Psychiatrists say it’s important to not only treat the eating disorder but also the root cause of it. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder seek help. Contact us today to take the first step.

Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez

DABPN, DABAM, MRO