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Different Types of Eating Disorders: Recognizing the Symptoms and Statistics

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Eating disorders tend to hide in plain sight. There are several types of eating disorder diagnoses and clinical subcategories of disordered eating, and none of them discriminate by gender or body type. Some people may ignore their symptoms for years simply because they do not “fit” their preconceived notion of what an eating disorder looks like.

Eating disorders are dangerous, biologically and socially influenced mental illnesses that impact people of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and genders. Although characterized by severe disturbances to eating behavior, eating disorders are about more than food. These life-threatening illnesses often co-occur with other mental health conditions, including mood and anxiety disorders, PTSD, and substance use disorders.

What are the Different Types of Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses. While some eating issues may not meet the diagnostic criteria for the conditions described below, we believe all eating concerns should be taken seriously and are worthy of care. 

Many eating disorder symptoms have become all but normalized due to diet culture’s influence, making them challenging to validate and causing delays in receiving treatment, which is dangerous given the increased health risks. 

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by food restriction, significant weight loss, and distorted body image. It has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness.

What are the Physical Symptoms of Anorexia?

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Muscle weakness or loss
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Swollen joints
  • Decrease in body temperature
  • Damaged digestive system from malnutrition
  • Poor wound healing
  • Abnormal heartbeat rhythm
  • Thinning hair

What are the Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms of Anorexia?

  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Withdrawing from social activities once enjoyed
  • Preoccupation with food or calorie counting
  • Difficulties concentrating on tasks or conversations
  • Visible anxiety
  • Excessive exercise
  • Food restriction
  • Not wanting to eat in public
  • Irritability

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory measures such as vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting, or laxative misuse.

What are the Physical Symptoms of Bulimia?

  • Dehydration/electrolyte imbalance
  • Exhaustion
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Oral problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease
  • Thinning hair
  • Sores, scars, or calluses on the knuckles or hands
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Swollen cheeks or jawline

What are the Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms of Bulimia?

  • Going to the bathroom right after eating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive exercise
  • Hiding food
  • Eating unusually large quantities of food in one setting
  • Obsession with body image
  • Worrying about weight
  • Social withdrawal

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by the frequent and recurring consumption of a large amount of food  – often quickly, in secret, and past the point of discomfort. There is also a sense of loss of control in relation to the amount of food consumed. 

BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States and one of the newest disorders to be recognized in the DSM-5.

What are the Physical Symptoms of BED?

  • Frequent stomach aches
  • Digestive problems
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Increased sensitivity to food cravings
  • Fatigue

What are the Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms of BED?

  • Inability to stop eating when full
  • Eating normally in the presence of others but binging when isolated
  • Feelings of numbness or lack of sensation while binge eating
  • Feelings of shame or self-hate after binge episodes
  • Stockpiling food to consume when alone
  • Experiencing the feeling of stress or anxiety that can only be relieved by eating
  • Never feeling satisfied when eating, no matter the amount of food consumed
  • Frequent dieting, with or without weight loss

Recovery is possible. Read on to learn how Alsana can help recover from binge eating disorder

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

OSFED is a diagnostic category for eating disturbances (such as atypical anorexia) in individuals whose symptoms do not meet the criteria for another eating disorder.

OSFED replaced EDNOS as a diagnosis, Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) is a subclinical DSM-5 category that, along with unspecified feeding or eating disorder (UFED), replaces the category formerly called eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) in the DSM-IV-TR. 

OSFED is no less serious than other eating disorders and is the most common eating disorder encountered in outpatient settings.  

What are the Physical Symptoms of OSFED?

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Constipation and stomach aches
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Fainting spells
  • Dental cavities
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair or balding patches

What are the Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms of OSFED?

  • Demonstrate behaviors and attitudes showing weight loss, dieting, and control of food as primary concerns
  • Feeling overweight despite weight loss
  • Denies feeling hungry
  • Evidence of purging behaviors such as frequent bathroom visits after meals and signs of vomiting.
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating only a particular food or food group)
  • Obsession with food cleanliness or exercise
  • Withdraws from usual social engagements and activities
  • Abdominal pain or digestive issues
  • Negative body image and low self-esteem
  • Evidence of binge eating
  • Loss of control when eating, including impulsive or irregular eating habits

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a feeding disorder in which certain foods are limited based on texture, smell, taste, or past negative experiences with food. 

ARFID is an eating disorder with symptoms and health risks similar to those of anorexia; both eating disorders involve intense dietary restrictions. However, ARFID is unique because it is not characterized by fear of weight gain or disturbed body image. Individuals struggle to nourish themselves adequately. On the surface, ARFID symptoms may look like “picky eating,” but individuals with ARFID may have fears of choking or extreme sensitivities to texture or taste.

What are the Physical Symptoms of ARFID?

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Swollen feet
  • Poor wound healing
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stomach discomfort after eating
  • Difficulty gaining weight
  • Fainting episodes or lightheadedness
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing food

What are the Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms of ARFID?

  • Fears of choking or vomiting
  • Difficulty eating with others
  • Limited range of preferred foods that become narrower over time (i.e., picky eating that progressively worsens)
  • Lack of appetite or interest in food
  • No body image disturbance or fear of weight gain

ARFID is not just a childhood eating disorder. Learn more about ARFID symptoms in adults.

Diabulimia  (ED-DMT1)

Diabulimia is a condition impacting individuals with insulin-dependent diabetes who intentionally restrict insulin for the purpose of weight loss. 

What are the Physical Symptoms of Diabulimia?

  • A sudden decrease in body weight
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Chronic low blood sugar levels
  • Vision loss
  • Kidney damage
  • Nerve damage causing tingling or numbness in extremities
  • Skin disorders

What are the Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms of Diabulimia?

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Obsession with body image, weight, or food intake
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety
  • Purging behaviors
  • Unwillingness to attend medical appointments
  • Avoiding situations that require eating

What are the Statistics Surrounding the Eating Disorder Types?

Eating Disorders and Health Risks

Eating Disorders in Women

Eating Disorders in Men

Eating Disorders in BIPOC Populations

Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ+ Community 

We hope this brings some clarity to different kinds of eating disorders. If you are someone who is being walked past, know that you are not alone. Perhaps you hold a great deal of shame around your eating behaviors or even think your struggles are invalid because they don’t fit the typical mold. Please do not let that deter you from getting help. Your pain matters and deserves to be heard. There is help available. 

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