|Eating Disorders are extremely serious, yet treatable, mental health disorders "that can affect people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group". An estimated 20 million women and 10 million men in the USA will experience an eating disorder during their lifetime.
This article will explore three main types of eating disorders including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Be sure to also read the article highlighting the facts about Disordered Eating which is separate from an eating disorder that is diagnosed by a health professional, yet may be precursors to an official diagnosis.
Please note: The information in this article is not medical advice. If you are concerned about your health and well-being, or you are concerned you may have an eating disorder or, if you or someone else is in an immediate crisis situation, reach out to a health professional, crisis line, or your nearest emergency service for more support.
1. Anorexia Nervosa
This type of eating disorder is "characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight". An individual diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa is often preoccupied with having control over their weight which ultimately interferes in extreme and negative ways.
Facts about Anorexia Nervosa:
Some of the typical symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa can include:
Extreme fatigue, insomnia, feeling dizzy or fainting spells
Severe weight loss, thin appearance, swelling of the arms or legs
Soft, downy hair covering the body
Abnormal blood count and irregular heart rhythms
Dehydration, constipation and abdominal pain
Fasting or extreme restricting of food intake
Bingeing & self-induced vomiting and the use of laxatives
Feeling numb or a lack of emotion
Social withdrawal including not wanting to eat in front of others
Fear of gaining weight that may include repeated weighing or measuring the body
Anorexia Nervosa can result in death even if the individual is not severely underweight. Health complications including abnormal heart rhythms, kidney problems, or and imbalance of fluids can also occur resulting in dangerous health outcomes.
An individual diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa may also be experiencing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, OCD, personality disorders, substance disorders, self-injury or suicidal ideation or attempts.
Learn more about diagnosing and treatment of Anorexia Nervosa here.
2. Bulimia Nervosa
This type of eating disorder "is characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating". An individual diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa may has excessive worry about their external appearance which can lead to a severely damaged sense of self worth.
Facts about Bulimia Nervosa:
Some of the typical symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa:
A sense of loss of control over eating behaviours
Swelling in the cheeks and jaw area, discoloured & stained teeth
Consuming a large amount of food and ridding the body of food before digestion
Stomach issues including gastric reflux or ulcers
Excessive use of laxatives or diuretics
Extreme or prolonged periods of exercising
Rituals or schedules dedicated to binge-purge activities
Mood swings, anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns
Low self-esteem, self-loathing, negative attitude about self or future
Distorted body image leading to sensitivity regarding topics of food or weight
Impulsivity or engaging in risky behaviours
Substance abuse separate from using medications for weight loss
Self-harming behaviours or suicidal ideation or attempts
3. Binge Eating Disorder
This type of eating disorder is similar to Bulimia Nervosa in that an individual "frequently consume[s] unusually large amounts of food and feel[s] unable to stop eating" but does not purge the consumed food. Binge Eating Disorder can be considered a compulsion that an individual does not have conscious control to stop the behaviours.
Facts about Binge Eating Disorder:
Some of the typical symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder:
Health issues including difficulty sleeping or exhaustion
More prone to developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension
Stomach issues, muscle or joint aches and pains
Continuing to consume food past the point of feeling full
Hoarding or hiding food in order to eat large amounts of food when alone
Experiencing stress or anxiety that is relieved by the consumption of food
Feeling numb or a lack of affect while bingeing
Substance abuse or misuse
Social isolation due to hiding bingeing from others
Self-harming behaviours or suicidal ideation or attempts
If you are concerned that you may be experiencing any of the symptoms of an eating disorder, take the first steps to having more support.
Some options include:
Later this month we will explore support and coping options in more detail.
Please note: The information in this article is not medical advice. If you are concerned about your health and well-being, or you are concerned you may have an eating disorder or if you or someone else is in an immediate crisis situation, reach out to a health professional, crisis line, or your nearest emergency service for more support.
Other Articles In This Series About Eating Disorders
What is Disordered Eating?
The Connection Between Body Image & Self-Esteem
What You Need to Know About Youth & Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders: Treatment, Support & Recovery
References: mayoclinic.org, nationaleatingdisorders.org, nedc.com.au, eatingdisorderhope.com
The links on this page may be embedded with affiliate links that I am compensated for at no additional cost to you. If you or someone you know is in crisis and need immediate support, please reach out to your local emergency service or crisis line.