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All 12 Types of Eating Disorders Explained

Eating is a complicated part of life. It’s affected by all sorts of things like our genes, the way we were raised, our mental health, imagery in the media, biological changes, and injuries even. This is why we see so many different types of eating disorders!

There are 5 types of eating disorders recognized as medical diagnoses in the ICD and DSM (these are two manuals medical doctors and psychologists use to officially keep track of valid diagnoses). We’ve also included an additional 8 types of eating disorders that mental health scientists recognize.

Eating Disorders: An Overview

The term eating disorder covers a range of unique mental illnesses. Their main characteristic as a group is that they cause some type of harmful food centered behavior. Behaviors vary but most often include food-restriction or excessive eating. Eating disorders can lead to harmful physical effects and even death.

The 12 Types of Eating Disorders

Those included in the ICD and DSM:

1. Anorexia Nervosa

Experts consider anorexia nervosa to be the most deadly of all mental illnesses because it has the highest mortality rate. For this reason, we can consider it to be the most severe of the 12 types of eating disorders. This condition involves severe food-restriction and sometimes extreme exercising and other purging behaviors. The individual will typically show these signs and symptoms:

  • Intense fear of gaining weight, even small amounts are intolerable.
  • Losing weight rapidly and consistently staying underweight. Their skinny appearance can be alarming for friends and family.
  • Refusal to acknowledge that such a low body weight can have harmful health consequences.
  • Amenorrhea: this is a term for when women stop menstruating due to low-fat content.
  • Heart damage: anorexia stresses the cardiovascular system and can lead to a variety of life-threatening heart conditions.

2. Bulimia Nervosa

This condition, bulimia nervosa, occurs when someone is repeatedly binging on large amounts of food and then purging it. Purging behaviors include forcing oneself to throw up, over-exercising, and using diet pills and laxatives. Both binging and purging behaviors are dangerous, and together they can quickly lead to dangerous physical symptoms.

3. Muscle Dysmorphia

Unlike most types of eating disorders, muscle dysmorphia tends to affect more men than women. The disorder is characterized by a disruptive obsession with musculature and physique. The individual will fixate on obtaining the ‘perfect’ form of musculature.

4. Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

BED is characterized by episodes of binging on large amounts of food. A binge describes when someone consumes an excessive amount of food within a period of two hours. Binges are accompanied by a trance-like state, feeling guilty and ashamed afterward, and weight gain. Unlike bulimia, BED does not usually include any purging behaviors. Typically, those affected by BED are overweight or obese because of the binging.

5. Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

OSFED is a “catch-all” for types of eating disorders that don’t fit into the above categories. Doctors and psychologists will often diagnose those with atypical anorexia or bulimia, as well as the following 7 unofficial diagnoses, with OSFED

woman with eating disorder

“Unofficial” Eating Disorder Diagnoses

These disorders are not included in any diagnostic manual, but doctors and psychologists still use these terms. Practitioners often group people with these conditions into OSFED, other specified feeding or eating disorder, as the official diagnosis. However, these terms are more specific and can help us communicate more clearly.

6. Compulsive Over Eating (COE)

This disorder is similar to binge eating disorder. What makes COE unique is that the individual doesn’t binge in spurts, but rather eats large amounts of food all day long.

7. Prader Willi Syndrome

This syndrome, which leads to compulsive eating and obesity, is caused by an inherited genetic disease. It begins with weak muscles, poor feeding, and slow development in babies. Then, in childhood, the disease causes insatiable hunger. Children with Prader Willi Syndrome often develop diabetes and struggle to adapt to a normal lifestyle.

8. Diabulimia

This occurs when someone who is diabetic uses their prescription insulin to try to induce weight loss.

9. Orthorexia Nervosa (a term coined by the writer and medical doctor, Steven Bratman)

We are all under pressure to eat healthier for various reasons. In the case of orthorexia nervosa, someone becomes so obsessed with planning a perfect diet that it disrupts their life.

10. Selective Eating Disorder

This eating disorder is a bit like picky eating, but at an extreme, debilitating level. An individual is so selective about their food, usually sticking to a one or two meals, that they become sick.

11. Drunkorexia

With a slightly crass sounding name, this term describes an eating disorder that is accompanied by alcoholism as well. The drunkorexic individual restricts food and purges in order to “save calories” for drinking alcohol. Severe malnutrition can develop when drunkorexia goes untreated.

12. Pregorexia

Since it is fairly common knowledge that pregnancy leads to weight gain and other bodily changes, so most women go into pregnancy with a weight loss plan. Sometimes, the weight loss plan can be too extreme and can endanger both mom and baby. Pregorexia can lead to low birth weight, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cardiovascular disease risk, and depression.

Get Help at Breathe’s Eating Disorder Treatment Center

If you or someone you love seems to be struggling with one of these eating disorders, reach out for help. Here at Breathe Life Healing Centers, we have a world-renowned eating disorder treatment program to help you heal your mind, body, and soul.

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