The 6 Types Of Eating Disorders (And How to Tell if You Have One)


eating disorder

Food can evoke strong feelings of pleasure, anger, and sadness. For some people, these emotions can lead to disordered eating habits. When you constantly crave food or cheat on your diet without gaining weight, this may indicate an eating disorder.

But what if your feelings about food go beyond just unhealthy eating habits? What if you constantly think about food or even cut out entire food groups from your diet? What if you get upset or angry in response to situations involving food? What if you are drawn to food regardless of how much or how little you eat?

This article will help you identify the six types of eating disorders and offer advice on how to know that you have an eating disorder. It will also explain the symptoms of each one so that you can see if this is the case with your struggle with food.

What is Eating Disorder?

The term eating disorder refers to a behavioral condition characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior and distressing feelings and thoughts. Eating disorders are associated with a preoccupation with food, body image, and weight. They can have serious health consequences and often co-occur with other mental health problems.

When eating disorders are severe, they can cause osteoporosis and heart and stomach problems. These problems can be life-threatening. Eating disorders also put you at risk of death due to starvation or suicide.

Anyone can experience an eating disorder, regardless of age, gender, or life stage. Eating disorders can affect how someone thinks, feels, and behaves; they can be a symptom of another mental health problem or occur independently. It can also lead to other issues in life, such as depression or anxiety.

What Signs Indicate an Eating Disorder? 

signs of eating disorder

Eating disorders are complex and can take on many forms. They often affect your body image and self-esteem, making you feel ashamed of your appearance or how much food you eat. Eating disorders can be hard to recognize, especially if you’re unsure what to look for. If you notice these signs, you might be experiencing one of these disorders.

Mental and Behavioral signs include:

• A dramatic loss of weight

• Anxiety about eating in public

• Obsession with weight, food, and calories 

• Making excuses to avoid meals or eating in secret

• Overly rigid dieting rules and regimens 

• Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals

• Denying the feeling of hunger

• Purging and binge-eating patterns

• Preparing meals without eating them

Physical signs include: 

• Unexplained weight loss or gain 

• Wearing baggy clothes and layers to hide weight loss or stay warm 

• Vomiting, laxative abuse, and diuretic use to lose weight

• Dizziness, weakness, or lightheadedness when standing up too quickly 

• Constipation and other gastrointestinal symptoms

• Sleep disturbances

• Dry and brittle hair 

• Thinning and breakage of nails 

• Extreme thirst, dry mouth, and frequent urination 

• Dry skin with a lack of body fat or muscle tone  

What Causes Eating Disorders?

causes of eating disorder

While each eating disorder has different causes, here are some of the factors that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder:

1) Body Image Issues

Many people experience some degree of dissatisfaction with their bodies. This is normal, as everyone has areas they wish were different and would like to change. However, for some people, this dissatisfaction becomes so strong that it can lead to extreme measures such as skipping meals or purging after eating.

 2) Stress

Stress plays a role in the development of eating disorders. In fact, many young women who develop anorexia nervosa report having experienced significant stress in their lives prior to the onset of symptoms. 

3) Family and Peer Influence

 Family members, friends, and peers can also play a role in developing an eating disorder. Individuals are particularly susceptible to this during adolescence when they develop identities and often seek guidance from others.

4) Genetics

Those with a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

 5) Brain Chemistry

Abnormalities in the brain’s chemistry can play a role in developing an eating disorder, particularly when combined with genetic factors and other environmental influences.

What Are the Different Types of Eating Disorders?

Several eating disorders can have long-lasting effects on your physical and mental health beyond just losing weight. Listed below are different eating disorders that you should know about.

1. Anorexia nervosa:

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by severely restricting calorie intake to starvation. This can lead to significant weight loss and even death. It’s important to note that anorexia nervosa is not just about being thin; it also involves a distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight. Anorexic patients often engage in excessive exercise or other behaviors to lose more weight.

Although anorexia nervosa is more commonly associated with females, males can also be affected. People with anorexia nervosa are often convinced they are overweight despite being severely underweight. They may also have other psychiatric conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Anorexia nervosa can be classified into two types: 

 • Restricting type: A method of losing weight primarily based on exercise, dieting, or fasting.

 • Binge-eating/purging type: A method of losing weight involves eating large amounts of food at one sitting or purging and then fasting.

Warning signs of Anorexia Nervosa include: 

  • Unable to maintain the appropriate body weight for their height and age.
  • Extremely restricted eating patterns (e.g., cutting out entire food groups).

2. Bulimia Nervosa:

bulimia nervosa

In bulimia nervosa, binge eating occurs in rapid cycles(consuming a large amount of food within a short period of time) followed by compensatory behaviors such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise to undo the effects.

People with bulimia nervosa are often preoccupied with the amount of food they consume. They are usually not underweight and can tolerate large amounts of food. However, many people with bulimia nervosa are obsessed with thinness and will engage in extreme dieting behaviors to achieve this goal.

Common binge-eating and compensatory behaviors associated with bulimia nervosa include: 

  • Vomiting after meals.
  • Excessive exercise.
  • Taking diet pills or laxatives. 
  • Drinking large amounts of water makes you feel fuller.  
  • Hiding food in your bedroom, office, or bathroom.

Symptoms may appear in any order, but in most cases, bulimia nervosa will start in early adolescence and last for a while. It’s essential to seek immediate help to prevent relapse and extend the time you can stay clean before you risk developing a new eating disorder.

3. Binge Eating Disorder 

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that involves recurrent episodes of overeating. People with binge eating disorders feel out of control while bingeing and may eat until their bodies are uncomfortably full. Binge eating disorder differs from bulimia nervosa because those who suffer from it don’t purge after a binge or use excessive exercise to compensate for overeating. 

It typically begins in early adulthood and most commonly manifests after a period of restrictive dieting, weight gain, and stress. Binge eating disorder is twice as common in females as in males. More severe cases are often associated with other psychiatric disorders, including depression and substance abuse.

Binge eating disorder symptoms are similar to those of other eating disorders. They include:

  • Binge eating can lead to excessive eating during an episode of feeling out of control.
  • Eating when you’re not physically hungry or in response to negative emotions like sadness, anger, or boredom.  
  • Overeating within a short timeframe (usually within two hours).

Symptoms of binge eating disorder may not co-occur in people with other eating disorders. They may begin before developing another eating disorder and eventually disappear on their own.

4. Pica 

Pica is a disorder characterized by an unusual craving for certain nonfood items. It can also describe an eating disorder in which you eat these nonfood items. People with pica may eat dirt, paint chips, paper, and soap.

It occurs most commonly in children, but it can also occur in adults. Pica is often seen as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and may be a symptom of other mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or autism. Some children with pica may eat nonfood items because they lack proper nutrition. They may also do it because of an underlying mental disorder or to get relief from stress.

In severe cases of pica, a person may eat so many nonfood items that they can’t keep up with the intake and becomes malnourished. Pica is more common in developing countries where there are food shortages.

5. Rumination Disorder

Rumination disorder is when an individual repeatedly regurgitates and rechews food but does not spit it out. It’s considered an eating disorder because it can cause serious medical problems and may be dangerous to the sufferer’s health if left untreated.

The main symptom of rumination disorder is repeated regurgitation of food, even after the person has swallowed it. The person with rumination disorder will continue this behavior for hours without stopping to eat or drink anything else. This can result in weight loss and dehydration.

This is more common in people with a history of eating disorders or other mental health issues. While the condition may seem harmless initially, it can cause severe dehydration and malnutrition and even lead to death if left untreated.

6. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder characterized by an inability to eat certain foods due to a fear of adverse health consequences or choking. It’s also sometimes called a picky eating disorder.

People with ARFID may have a limited range of foods they will eat, and they may avoid situations where they might have to try new foods or eat in front of others. They may also avoid eating when they are hungry or when other things are happening around them, such as watching television or playing video games.

People with ARFID may have other food issues besides not wanting to eat it. They might also hoard or hide food from others so no one else can eat it either!


With eating disorders on the rise, it is essential to know how to spot the symptoms that may be prevalent in your loved ones. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, you must talk to your loved one about their eating habits and get them to help if necessary. Eating disorders can be very harmful and even fatal if left untreated.

Are you seeking treatment for an eating disorder? Or someone you love? If so, Hanei Health Solutions LLC can help! 

We provide a safe and supportive environment for you to get the help you need. Our staff is dedicated to helping patients deal with their eating disorders and regain control of their lives. We have found that many people who suffer from an eating disorder also struggle with other mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. This is why we can offer a full spectrum of psychiatric services in addition to our eating disorder treatment program.

For more information about our services or to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists, please contact us today!


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