How to recognize different types of eating disorders

May 11, 2016

Woman eating a cookie

Nearly 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life threatening consequences. Yet, as prevalent as this problem is, there is good news. Eating disorders are treatable and with proper treatment, a full recovery is possible.

However, with eating disorders, there is a spectrum, so diagnosis can be difficult and should be left to a professional. Being familiar with the different kinds of eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors that exist can alert you to a problem. If you recognize any signs in yourself or in a loved one get help from an organization like Healthy Futures.

The following list represents a spectrum of common eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors. You might be surprised to find a few you have not heard of before.

Eating Disorder Clinical Diagnoses

  • Anorexia: self-starvation and excessive weight loss. May have an intense fear of being “fat” and desire to maintain body weight at or below normal weight.
  • Bulimia: bingeing and purging of food. Eat excessive amounts of food in short periods of time (often in secret), then get rid of the food and calories through vomiting, enemas, laxative abuse, or over-exercising.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: experience periods of compulsive, uncontrolled, continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. Following, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets, and feelings of shame or self-hatred.
  • OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder): shows signs of anorexia or bulimia but does not fit neatly into those categories.
  • ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder): a persistent disturbance in eating that leads to significant clinical consequences, such as weight loss or inadequate growth, a significant nutritional deficiency, dependence on tube feeding or nutritional supplements to sustain adequate intake, and/or impaired psychosocial functioning, such as an inability to eat with others.
  • Below are “pop psychology” terms sometimes heard surrounding eating disorders, but are not clinical diagnoses:
  • Anorexia Athletica: excessive, obsessive exercise as well as calorie restriction.
  • Pica: craving and eating objects not suitable to be eaten and have no nutritional value, like chalk, dirt or clothing.
  • Rumination: eating food, throwing it up, then eating it again.
  • Diabulimia: seen in diabetics who withhold insulin in order to lose weight rapidly.
  • Orthorexia: the obsession with avoiding unhealthy foods that becomes so strong, it interferes with proper nutrition.
  • Drunkorexia: eating less food in order to have more room for alcohol calories.
  • Pregorexia: excessive dieting, exercising and other actions to avoid weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Night Eating Syndrome: the urge to eat only at night, sometimes without being aware of it, such as while sleepwalking.
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome: an insatiable appetite from birth because of a defect in the hypothalamus.
  • Selective Eating Disorder (SED): associated with food phobias.

More on Signs & Symptoms

Man stressed on park bench

How to stop judging yourself so harshly

The world is judgmental. It would be great if people didn’t judge others on seemingly every little thing. It would even be better if everyone liked everyone else, but sadly this in not the case.
Curious guy

Curiosity is the key to learning about life around you

Curiosity is truly a great thing. It is the perfect antidote to boredom. Look around you and there are things you can be curious about. If you see something that you want to know more about – great! Grab your computer or phone and research it.
Friends hanging out at a park

Why you matter more than you’ll ever know

Life has its fair share of ups and downs. If you are struggling with depression, please hear this – it’s going to be OK! You matter and are worthy. It is OK to reach out and ask for help because no one – not one single person – has it all figured out. Everyone struggles from time to time.
Wooden blocks that spell out love

Understanding the importance of self-compassion & gratitude

We are taught as a child that life is not always fair, that things will not always go our way. However, as we grow into adulthood, it is easy to turn unfair situations into a time of self-pity, or even depression. Thankfully, there is an easy concept to avoid going down this path. Self-Compassion.
Pride flag

Importance of healthy eating habits for our transgender friends

Are you part of the transgender community or do you identify yourself as being transgender? Do you have a healthy relationship with food? With your body?
Happy girl eating

What do healthy eating habits look like for you?

The best practice for healthy eating is being consistent with your eating every day.  But, before you can practice healthy eating, you need to know what that looks like for you.  It may be different from one person to the next.  So, ask yourself some questions.