Woman eating a cookie

How to recognize different types of eating disorders

May 11, 2016

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.