Did you know that there are many different eating disorders types? And can they affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, or weight? There are different types of eating disorders, and each has its signs and symptoms. Each condition requires intervention and treatment.
What is an eating disorder?
It can be described as a mental illness characterized by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect a person’s physical or mental health. Eating disorders are usually caused by genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors. They are often associated with other mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Eating disorders can be hazardous and even life-threatening if left untreated. Anyone who suspects that they or someone they know may have an eating disorder should talk to a doctor as soon as possible. Early intervention is essential for the successful treatment of eating disorders.
Most common eating disorder types and symptoms
There are different eating disorders you should be aware of, as well as their signs and symptoms.
Here are the common types of eating disorders:
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that can devastate a person’s physical and mental health. The condition is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, which leads sufferers to restrict their food intake and engage in dangerous levels of exercise. Anorexia nervosa often begins during adolescence and is more common in girls than boys. However, the disorder can affect people of any age and gender.
Several factors may contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa. For some people, the disorder may be triggered by a traumatic event or a significant life change. Other risk factors: family history of eating disorders, perfectionism, and low self-esteem.
People with this condition often have a distorted view of their bodies, perceiving themselves as overweight even when they are dangerously thin. They may also have a difficult time expressing their emotions and may turn to food restriction as a way to cope with stress.
Signs of anorexia nervosa
- Drastic weight loss
- Dry skin and hair
- Brittle nails
- Cold intolerance
It’s essential to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional if you notice any of the signs. Anorexia nervosa is a severe and potentially life-threatening disorder that requires treatment.
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purging. Binge eating is defined as eating a huge amount of food in a short time, and purging is typically accomplished by self-induced vomiting or using laxatives.
People with bulimia may feel like they cannot control their eating and may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their behavior. As a result, they often try to keep their disorder secret, making it challenging to identify.
There are several potential causes of bulimia, including emotional stress, dissatisfaction with one’s body image, and societal pressure to be thin.
Signs and symptoms of bulimia
- Secretive eating habits
- Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
- An obsession with food or weight
- Evidence of self-harm
Bulimia can have serious health implications, including electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, and tooth decay. If you feel like someone you know may be suffering from bulimia, it is vital to encourage them to seek professional help. Treatment for bulimia typically includes counseling and behavior modification therapy.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
Binge eating disorder (B.E.D) is an alarming and dangerous disorder in which a person compulsively consumes huge amounts of food in a short time, even when they are not physically hungry. Bingeing can often lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment, as well as physical discomfort due to the amount of food consumed.
Individuals with B.E.D often feel out of control during a binge and are unable to stop themselves from eating even when they are full. It is estimated that B.E.D affects approximately 3.5% of adults in the United States and is the most common eating disorder in the country.
While the exact cause of Binge Eating Disorder is unknown, several risk factors have been identified, which include: emotional stress, dieting or food restrictions, genetic disposition, and certain psychiatric conditions such as anxiety or depression.
Physical signs and symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
- Eating huge amounts of food quickly
- Feeling out of control while bingeing
- Feeling ashamed or embarrassed after bingeing
- Eating even when you aren’t physically hungry
- Experiencing physical discomfort after bingeing, such as stomach pain
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
ARFID is a condition characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and energy needs. Individuals with ARFID are usually underweight for their height and age. They may also experience:
- Avoid certain textures and smells of foods
- Lack of interest in food and eating
- Symptoms of abdominal pain
- Vomiting after eating
- Fear of choking or vomiting.
There are many potential causes of ARFID, which include nutrition deficiencies, gastrointestinal issues, psychological disorders such as anxiety or depression, and social isolation due to food restrictions.
Some risks associated with ARFID include malnutrition, dehydration, and developmental delays in children. Early intervention is essential to prevent these risks. Nutritional counseling and Psychotherapy are two evidence-based treatments for ARFID. Psychotherapy can help individuals to manage their anxiety around food and eating. Nutritional counseling can help to ensure that individuals are meeting their nutritional needs.
Pica is characterized by an individual compulsively eating non-nutritive substances for at least one month. The list of substances consumed by people with pica includes, but is not limited to, laundry detergent, paint chips, ice, metal objects, and hair.
While the cause of pica is unknown, several theories include nutritional deficiencies, cultural influences, and psychological disorders. Pregnant women, young children, and people with intellectual disabilities are at a higher risk for developing pica.
Pica can lead to negative consequences, including choking, gastrointestinal problems, and poisoning. In severe cases, it can even be fatal. If you suspect someone close may be suffering from pica, the best action is to speak to a mental health professional. Treatment typically involves both therapy and medication. Most people can stop compulsively eating non-food items and live healthy lives with treatment.
Rumination is a condition in which a person regurgitates food that they have previously swallowed and then re-chews and swallows the food again. Rumination disorder typically occurs in infants and young children but can also occur in adults.
The exact cause of rumination disorder is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of psychological and physiological factors.
Common signs and symptoms of rumination disorder
- Regurgitating food soon after eating
- Re-chewing or swallowing regurgitated food
- Weight loss
- Refusal to eat
- Wet burping or hiccups.
If untreated, rumination disorder can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss, and even death. Thankfully, rumination disorder can be effectively treated with behavioral therapy and medication. If you suspect someone close may be suffering from rumination disorder, please seek professional help immediately.
Eating disorders are serious mental conditions that can profoundly affect an individual’s physical and mental health. Mentioned above are the main types of eating disorders. If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, please seek professional help. Early intervention is key to recovery. There are many tested treatments available that can help people live healthy and fulfilling lives.