Types of Eating Disorders

Even though the name suggests that eating disorders are a problem related with eating, however, in reality these are mental health issues that frequently need help from qualified medical and psychological professionals.

This article lists the most prevalent eating disorders and their signs and symptoms.

What Is An Eating Disorder?

What Is An Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are a group of psychological problems that result in the development of poor eating patterns. Being obsessed with food, weight, and body is just the beginning of it.

If severe, they can have a substantial effect on health and, if not given proper attention, can even lead to death.

Those suffering from an eating disorder may experience several symptoms. Common symptoms include severe dietary restriction, binge eating and purging actions like vomiting or excessive exercise.

Women are considered to be the population most impacted by eating disorders, with studies indicating women have higher rates of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder than men (.9%, 1.6%, and .5% versus .3%, .8%, and .1%, respectively Eating disorders are also increasing among men and gender-nonconforming individuals. These groups frequently don’t report their eating disorders or seek treatment at lower rates.

Why Do Eating Problems Occur?

Numerous causes, according to experts, might be responsible for eating problems.

Genetics is one of them. People appear to be more likely to acquire an eating disorder if they have a sibling or parent who does.

One more thing to consider is your personality. According to a 2015 study review, neuroticism, perfectionism, and impulsivity are three personality qualities that are frequently connected to an increased risk of having an eating problem.

The perceived pressure to be slim, cultural desires for thinness, and media exposure that promotes these ideals are other potential factors.

More recently, specialists have suggested that variations in biology and brain anatomy may possibly contribute to the emergence of eating disorders. Especially, levels of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. However, we do need more studies to make any conclusions.

Types Of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Probably the most well-known eating disorder is anorexia nervosa. It typically appears throughout adolescence or early adulthood, and more women than males are typically affected.

The following are signs of anorexia nervosa:

  • Fairly limited dietary habits.
  • Despite being underweight, having an obsession with thinness, and a refusal to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Signs of great anxiety about gaining weight or persistent activities to prevent gaining weight.
  • A skewed body image, including the denial of being extremely underweight.
  • The significant impact of body weight or perceived body shape on self-esteem. 

It’s crucial to remember that diagnosing someone with anorexia shouldn’t be primarily based on weight. Body mass index is no longer a reliable diagnostic tool because dangers can apply to both “normal” and “overweight” individuals.

For instance, despite severe weight loss, a person with atypical anorexia may fit the criteria for anorexia yet not be underweight.

Additionally common are signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder may also be encountered. For instance, many anorexics are consumed with thoughts of food all the time, and some may compulsively stockpile food or gather recipes.

Furthermore, they could find it challenging to eat in public and show a strong need to control their environment, which limits their capacity for spontaneity.

Bulimia Nervosa

Yet another well-known eating disorder is bulimia nervosa. Similar to anorexia, bulimia typically manifests in youth and the early stages of life. It seems to affect men and women differently. 

Bulimics commonly consume unusually large amounts of food in a short length of time. They keep eating until they feel excruciatingly full.

Although binges can occur with any kind of food, they most frequently happen with items that the person generally avoids. Bulimics then make an effort to purge to make up for the calories they have already ingested and to feel better. Forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and strenuous exercise are examples of common purging techniques.

Rather than drastically reducing their weight, bulimics typically maintain a weight that is more or less normal.

Bulimia Nervosa’s common signs and symptoms include

  • Repeatedly experiencing uncontrollable episodes of binge eating. 
  • Repeatedly engaging in inappropriate purging techniques to avoid gaining weight.
  • Despite having a regular weight, self-esteem is overly influenced by physical form and weight.
  • Fear of gaining weight.

An irritated and painful throat, severe dehydration, swollen salivary glands, dental decay, damaged tooth enamel, acid reflux, stomach discomfort, and hormone imbalances are all potential side effects of bulimia. Bulimia can also cause a disturbance in electrolyte balance leading to a stroke.

Binge Eating Disorder

The most frequent type of eating problem and one of the most prevalent chronic disorders among teenagers is binge eating disorder. Adolescence and early adulthood mark the beginning of binge eating however it could develop later too.

Binge eating symptoms can be similar to that of bulimia or the anorexic binge eating subtype. For instance, they frequently feel out of control during bingeing and consume abnormally large quantities of food in comparatively short lengths of time.

Binge eaters do not control calories or engage in purging activities to make up for their binges, such as vomiting or overeating.

The following are typical signs of a binge eating disorder:

  • No use of purging habits, such as calorie restriction, vomiting, excessive exercise, or the use of laxatives or diuretics to make up for the binge eating.
  • Eating large amounts of food quickly, in secret, and until uncomfortably full, despite not feeling hungry. 
  • Feeling stressed out, guilty, disgusting after a binge eating episode.
  • Feeling out of control during episodes of binge eating.

People who suffer from binge eating disorder frequently overeat and may not choose nutrient-dense foods. This could raise their chance of developing health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

Rumination Disorder

Another recently discovered eating problem is ruminative disorder.

It speaks of a condition when a person regurgitates food that they have already digested and swallowed, re-chews it, and then either re-swallows it or spits it out. Usually, this ruminating happens within the first 30 minutes following a meal.

Rumination disorder in babies, if left untreated, can lead to severe malnutrition and weight loss, both of which are potentially fatal. The adults may restrict their diet when outside, particularly when eating in public.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

The phrase has taken the place of the diagnostic known as “feeding disease of infancy and early childhood,” which was previously limited to children under the age of seven.

People who have this disease have problematic eating because they are either not interested in eating or dislike particular tastes, scents, colors, textures, or temperatures.

Typical signs of ARFID include:

  • Eating habits that interfere with customary social activities, such as eating with others. 
  • Weight loss or poor development for age and height nutrient deficiencies. 
  • Dependence on supplements or tube feeding avoidance. 
  • Restriction of food intake preventing the person from consuming enough calories or nutrients.

The phrase “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood,” which was formerly used to diagnose children under the age of seven, has been replaced. It’s crucial to remember that ARFID extends beyond typical habits like selective eating in children or reduced meal intake in senior citizens.

Furthermore, it excludes avoiding or restricting foods owing to scarcity or because of cultural or religious customs.


Eating items that are not regarded to be food and have no nutritional value is a symptom of the eating disorder known as pica.

Non-food items including ice, mud, soil, chalk, soap, paper, hair, fabric, wool, pebbles, laundry detergent, or cornflour are craved by people with pica.

Pica can happen to adults, kids, and teenagers. People with intellectual challenges, developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder, and mental health diseases like schizophrenia are the ones who experience it the most frequently.

A higher risk of poisoning, infections, gastrointestinal injuries, and nutritional deficits may exist in people with pica. Pica may be lethal, depending on what the person ate.

However, for the condition to be classified as pica, consuming non-food items cannot be a common practice in one’s culture or religion. Additionally, a person’s peers must not see it as socially acceptable behavior.


The sections above are aimed to clarify misconceptions regarding the most prevalent eating disorders and give a better understanding of them. Mental health concerns like eating disorders typically call for treatment. If unattended, they may also harm the body.

You can get assistance from a healthcare provider who specializes in eating disorders if you or someone you know may have an eating issue. 

Author: Zainab Cutlerywala (INFS Faculty)


Culbert, K. M., Racine, S. E., & Klump, K. L. (2015). Research Review: What we have learned about the causes of eating disorders – a synthesis of sociocultural, psychological, and biological research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 56(11), 1141–1164. 


Nagl, M., Jacobi, C., Paul, M., Beesdo-Baum, K., Höfler, M., Lieb, R., & Wittchen, H. U. (2016). Prevalence, incidence, and natural course of anorexia and bulimia nervosa among adolescents and young adults. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 25(8), 903–918. 


NIMH » Eating Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2023, 

Marzilli, E., Cerniglia, L., & Cimino, S. (2018). A narrative review of binge eating disorder in adolescence: prevalence, impact, and psychological treatment strategies. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 9, 17. 


Kyrou, I., Randeva, H. S., Tsigos, C., Kaltsas, G., & Weickert, M. O. (2018). Clinical Problems Caused by Obesity. Endotext.


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