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EATING DISORDERS (Types & Their Symptoms)

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

Eating disorders are a range of psychological conditions that cause unhealthy eating habits to develop. They might start with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape. Most common symptoms include severe restriction of food, food binges, or purging behaviors like fasting, vomiting or over-exercising.

Researchers have hypothesized that, social platforms may play a central role in creating and intensifying the phenomenon of body dissatisfaction and is a possible risk factor for the development of eating disorders. (1)

Let’s take a look at the most common types of eating disorders and their symptoms.

1. Anorexia nervosa

This is likely the most well-known eating disorder. People with anorexia nervosa may limit their food intake or compensate for it through various purging behaviors like forced vomiting or over-exercising. They have an intense fear of gaining weight, even when severely underweight.

Common symptoms include:

Ø being considerably underweight compared with people of similar age and height

Ø very restricted eating patterns

Ø an intense fear of gaining weight or persistent behaviors to avoid gaining weight, despite being underweight

Ø a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight

Ø a heavy influence of body weight or body shape on self-esteem

Ø a distorted body image, including denial of being seriously underweight

2. Bulimia nervosa

People with bulimia frequently eat unusually large amounts of food in a specific period of time and then attempt to purge (vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, laxatives & diuretics) to compensate for the calories consumed and relieve gut discomfort.

Common symptoms include:

Ø recurrent episodes of binge eating with a feeling of lack of control

Ø recurrent episodes of inappropriate purging behaviors to prevent weight gain

Ø a self-esteem overly influenced by body shape and weight

Ø a fear of gaining weight, despite having a normal weight

3. Binge eating disorder

People with binge eating disorder regularly and uncontrollably consume large amounts of food in short periods of time but do not have purging behaviors. People with binge eating disorder often are overweight or obese.

Common symptoms include:

Ø eating large amounts of foods rapidly, in secret despite not feeling hungry

Ø feeling a lack of control during episodes of binge eating

Ø feelings of distress, such as shame, disgust, or guilt, when thinking about the binge eating behavior

4. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is an eating disorder that causes people to under-eat. This is either due to a lack of interest in food or an intense distaste for how certain foods look, smell, or taste.

Common symptoms include:

Ø avoidance or restriction of food intake that prevents the person from eating sufficient calories or nutrients

Ø eating habits that interfere with normal social functions, such as eating with others

Ø weight loss or poor development for age and height

Ø nutrient deficiencies or dependence on supplements or tube feeding

5. Night eating syndrome

Individuals with this syndrome frequently eat excessively, often after awakening from sleep.

Common symptoms include:

Ø Lack of appetite in the morning

Ø A strong urge to eat between dinner and sleep

Ø Insomnia four or five nights a week

Ø A belief that eating is necessary to get to sleep or get back to sleep

Ø A depressed mood that gets worse during evening hours

Eating disorders are treatable, and with the right treatment and support, most people with an eating disorder can learn healthy eating habits and get their lives back on track. Treatment includes nutrition counseling & diet advice, medical care, and talk therapy based on the severity.


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