HealthMental HealthWhat Are Eating Disorders? Types, Signs & Symptoms, Treatment, And More

What Are Eating Disorders? Types, Signs & Symptoms, Treatment, And More

What Are Eating Disorders?

Have you ever asked yourself just what are eating disorders? Have you ever thought about your eating habits and how they affect your mental health? You certainly may have seen days when you felt like overeating the entire time and other days when you don’t feel like eating anything at all.

Oftentimes, we do not appreciate our eating habits until we discover that it could be a disorder or we feel the pressure of a physical issue manifesting.

This article will explain a number of eating disorder types, the signs & symptoms of these disorders, and various modes of treatment.

Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Defined

Many eating disorders may be outlined by abnormal food consumption habits that negatively influence the body’s physical and/or mental health state. An individual in the throes of an eating disorder does not embrace a positive mental outlook in most cases. If you are curious about what are eating disorders we have provided some preliminary information in this article for you. Now let me dive into different types of eating disorders;

What Are the Different Types of Eating Disorders, Signs & Symptoms, and Treatment?

1. Binge Eating Disorder Eating disorder body image

Someone with a Binge Eating Disorder (BED) may eat a large quantity of food during a short interval of time, even if they are not hungry. Emotional stress or traumatic events may trigger a person to binge eat. An individual may experience a wave of release of said stress or a feeling of relief throughout the act of the binge. However, feelings of shame or guilt over the loss of control usually sets in shortly after binge eating.  If someone is not currently seeking help with this type of eating disorder you may be able to identify their need for help before they reach out.  

Sign & Symptoms of a Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating episodes are usually defined by the following:

  • Eating a lot quicker than usual, most commonly in a short burst of time
  • Eating beyond fullness or until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating an oversized quantity even if the individual is not hungry
  • Binges are planned prior to the act, often involving the acquisition of special or coveted binge food and the allocation of a specific time for binging, typically late at night or when the individual will be alone
  • A dazed psychological state throughout the act of binge eating
  • Not having the ability to recollect what was eaten during the binge

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

  • Cognitive-behavioral intervention may be a type of therapy that focuses on the means of thinking and subsequent behaviors
  • Social psychotherapy is additionally effective in treating a binge eating disorder, particularly if the condition is extremely severe

2. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa may display as a disorder in which an individual loses weight drastically and works to maintain a weight that is lower than healthy. Typically (but not always) people that develop the eating disorder of anorexia become preoccupied with thoughts concerning diet and different strategies of weight loss, such as exercise and fasting. Foods containing fat are usually avoided, even when the fat in the foods are healthy fats. 

Sign & Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

The following signs and symptoms might indicate that the person is being tormented by anorexia:

  • Sudden or extreme weight loss
  • Lying about how much food has been eaten, or current weight
  • Avoiding dining with others
  • Cutting food into very small pieces
  • Eating slowly to disguise the small amount being eaten at mealtimes
  • Attempting to cover the body with loose and baggy clothing to avoid conversations about weight, eating disorders, and mental health

Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

  • Individual, clinical assessment by a healthcare professional
  • Cognitive therapy in solo or group settings, sometimes a combination
  • In some cases, inpatient care or rehabilitation is necessary

The treatment of anorexia can vary greatly depending on the mental health of the individual.  As such, there is no one specific medication to “cure” anorexia, or any eating disorder for that matter.  Managing this disorder involves continued intervention and therapy under the care of mental health professionals.  

  • However, if your life (or the life of a loved one) is in immediate danger, you should seek help at a hospital or your general practitioner. 
  • Go to the ER for problems like a heart rhythm disturbance, severe dehydration, fluid imbalances, or dizziness. 
  • The primary goal of treatment is getting back to a healthy weight and a healthy mindset. 

Successfully managing this disorder involves consistent work to adopt a healthy lifestyle, healthy body image, and learning proper nutrition.

3. Bulimia Nervosa

Teenage girl with eating disorder

Bulimia nervosa can be devastating. Individuals with bulimia most commonly binge in secret — eating exorbitant amounts of food along with a loss of control over consuming this food — and then purge the binged food in an attempt to get rid of or eliminate those massive amounts of calories.  To someone who hasn’t experienced what are eating disorders, this could seem obviously self-destructive.  That is why it is important to remember that those with bulimia nervosa are not experiencing their weight, body, or relationship with food in the same way as most people do.  

Sign & Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Becoming preoccupied along with body image and weight
  • Repeated episodes consuming very large amounts of food in one sitting
  • Feeling a loss of control throughout bingeing — feeling as if one cannot stop eating or cannot decide what is being eaten
  • Forcing oneself to vomit (purge) or engaging in an excessive amount of intense exercise to avoid gaining weight from bingeing
  • Use of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after eating when there are no known issues with bowel movements or urinary activity
  • Fasting, counting calories, or avoiding all foods between binges
  • Using dietary supplements for weight loss

Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa

  • A combination of psychotherapy, antidepressants, and diet education that support desired behavioral and cognitive psychological goals
  • Dietary education
  • Solo and group therapy, depending on the severity and the individual’s response to other cognitive therapies

4. Pica

Pica refers to an individual’s craving to consume nonfood items, like paint chips or sand. Most medical guides classify pica as an eating disorder. Some women develop pica during pregnancy.  Usually, when pica its onset during pregnancy the symptoms and desires to eat nonfood items recedes after delivery of the baby. Pica disorder commonly occurs after or during traumatic life events and during states of extreme mental duress or as part of a grouping of eating disorders.

Sign & Symptoms of Pica

  • Hiding or hoarding of the desired consumable items
  • Broken teeth
  • Frequent stomach aches
  • Bloody stool
  • Bruising on, around, or near the mouth
  • Anemia

Treatment for Pica

  • Psychological, outpatient therapy
  • Occupational medical care
  • Sensory support redirection; providing a safer item to chew on that is not consumed
  • Medication to treat underlying mental health conditions, if present

5. Rumination Disorder

This is a condition in which individuals repeatedly and uncontrollably spit up, or regurgitate, undigested or half-eaten food.  An individual living with rumination disorder would then rechew the food, and then either swallow it or spit it out completely.

Sign & Symptoms of Rumination Disorder

  • Effortless regurgitation, usually inside ten minutes of consumption
  • Abdominal pain or pressure, self-mitigated by regurgitation
  • A feeling of fullness
  • Bad breath
  • Nausea
  • Involuntary weight loss

Treatment for Rumination Disorder

  • Behavior medical care specializing in habit reversal like preventing the physical action of rumination to allow traditional, healthy digestion
  • Proton pump inhibitors medications  to facilitate defending the liner of the muscle system till behavior modification takes over to scale back the frequency and severity of regurgitation
  • Diaphragmatic respiration techniques are designed to be used once one acknowledges that regurgitation is uncontrollable
  • Learning techniques  to manage respiration in order to relax the diaphragm  as regurgitation cannot occur once the diaphragm is relaxed

6. Purging Disorder

Those with a purging disorder will self-induce vomiting. They may, additionally, take medication to force themselves to defecate, urinate or vomit. A purging disorder often differs from bulimia nervosa (BN) in that those with a purging disorder don’t consume an oversized quantity of food before they purge. It can be overwhelming to figure out if someone you care about has a purging disorder.  If you’re distressed concerning yourself or a loved one, be sure to consult a physician. This can be one of the most destructive eating disorders when left unchecked. 

Sign & Symptoms of a Purging Disorder

  • Comments or behaviors that show a lot of concern over food, dieting, or weight loss
  • Frequent trips to the toilet
  • Signs or smells of vomiting
  • Cuts or calluses on the knuckles and hands from forced purging
  • Dental issues or sensitive teeth
  • Frequent use of mouthwash, mints, or gum

Treatment for Purging Disorder

There are not any specific, universal plans for treating a purging disorder. Doctors use a combination of treatments that they normally use for different eating disorders. Treatment can include talk therapy, nutritional education\ and treatment for different mental health issues and dental problems. Individuals with purging disorder typically require unique combinations of cognitive psychological therapy to manage the symptoms and underlying causes of the disorder. 

7. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), sometimes called selective eating disorder (SED), results in individuals eating only a certain very small variety of foods.  These foods typically do not provide enough nutrition for the body to maintain proper functions.  The choice of these foods may be based on taste, color, texture, or cognitive choices.  Most people with ARFID can still maintain a healthy or typical weight. There, generally, are not any specific outward signs related to ARFID.  The majority of those who suffer from ARFID would gladly eat a variety of foods if their bodily reactions would allow it.

Sign & Symptoms of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

  • Physical body reactions to adverse foods like retching, vomiting or gagging
  • Social shunning in regards to events or activities that include meals, food, and refreshments

Treatment for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to amend the thought patterns that underlie the eating disorder
  • Exposure therapy can also facilitate sufferers in tolerating anxiety-provoking foods and intensely feared foods
  • Family-based redirecting approaches can also be useful if resistance or shunning arises throughout family meals

“My worst days in recovery are better than the best days in relapse.” Kate Le Page

Sad young woman with eating disorders during meeting

Popular FAQS on Eating Disorders

How Common Are Eating Disorders?

Here is a breakdown of the analysis and statistics around eating disorders like anorexia, binge eating, bulimia, and other conditions:

  • 2.8 % of female adults suffer from binge eating during their period
  • 13% of ladies over the age of fifty have eating disorder symptoms
  • Over seventy percent of those who are suffering from eating disorders won’t seek treatment due to social stigmas
  • Anorexia is  the third most common chronic illness among adolescents
  • More than thirty million individuals within the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder
  • The rate of children below the age of twelve being admitted to a hospital for eating disorders rose 119% in just a decade
  • One in 5 eating disorder deaths are a result of suicide
  • 50-80% of the chance of contracting an eating disorder is genetic

Can You Tell, Only by Visually Observing Somebody, if They Have an Eating Disorder?

No. You can’t successfully answer the question of “what are eating disorders” and “does my loved one have one” simply by observing them. Behaviors and attitudes ought to be considered if there is a concern, instead of only weight and body size.

Is Recovery Possible?

Yes. Recovery is absolutely possible! Managing and beating an eating disorder is an extremely unique and individual journey. 

What Should I Do if I Feel I Have an Eating Disorder?  

You took a giant step in admitting you would like to get help. We encourage you to confide in somebody you trust that you have a mental health issue, an eating disorder and that you are seeking help. Many folks feel instantly relieved when they’ve told someone that they have a problem. However, don’t stop there. Ask that person that you’ve confided in to help you find skilled, professional care.

What now? Seeking Help and Advice

Eating disorder Diagnosis

Now that we’ve answered, at least in an umbrella overview, what are eating disorders and what some of the most prevalent eating disorders are let’s be sure to discuss what happens next.  If you think you, or someone you love, may have an eating disorder then it’s important to let them know that you are there for them. 

Even if it feels awkward at first, the best thing you can do is ask them if there’s anything they want to talk about, how they are doing and let them know that you are always there to listen in a judgment freeway no matter what.  The next part is to adhere to that promise. 

Final Thoughts

If you feel you may have an eating disorder, looking for answers and searching the internet with questions like the one that brought you here is the first step in seeking help. Now that you have some information available to you, it is important to ask for professional help to overcome any issue.

Starting with therapy via a phone app, over a telehealth service, or talking to your family doctor is a great place to start on your step to taking back your life.  Asking for help is human, and you may find that when you reach out you’ll find many people who have experienced and overcome the same issues that you have. 


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