Different Types of Eating Disorders Explained

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Eating disorders are types of psychological disorders defined by abnormal eating habits until the individual’s health and physical appearance deteriorate. It’s accompanied by severe weight loss and extreme measures to lose more weight. Unfortunately, unless the person seeks life-long treatment that includes counseling and eating the right foods, eating disorders are notoriously hard to treat.

In the US alone, more than 24 million people from all ages and genders are suffering from an eating disorder but only 35% of them are receiving treatment.  Although eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among all kinds of mental problems, the numbers will vary because those who do die from it will suffer from organ failure, heart failure, malnutrition, or suicide. Instead of citing eating disorder as the cause of death, however, the health complications that led to a person’s death is listed as the cause.

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Of all the types of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa is potentially the deadliest. It’s characterized by refusal to eat or inability to achieve or maintain a normal, healthy body weight. This disorder will also include severe fear of gaining weight, even if the patient is already frighteningly thin. A person suffering from anorexia nervosa is usually rail thin with a body weight 15% or lower than normal. A person suffering from anorexia nervosa will also experience being overly critical of his/her body weight and irregular or even absence of menstruation.

Bulimia Nervosa

This condition is characterized by periodical binging and purging. Binging is defined as consuming more food than normal, eating excessively discreetly to hide their shame, and following by an intense feeling of lack of control over food consumption. The patient will binge and exhibit compensatory behaviors for at least 3 months. Those who are afflicted with this condition have a distorted perception of their shape; they are concerned about getting fat and intense fear of gaining more weight.

Anorexia Athletica

Although standard mental health diagnostic manuals do not formally recognize the term, Anorexia Athletica is used to describe the urge to exercise excessively and obsessively. This condition is also known as Compulsive Exercising. Anorexia Athletics usually affects professional athletes, although it’s known to afflict the general public as well.

This condition could also be described as “Over Exercising,” wherein a person will work out to the point of exhaustion.

Night Eating Syndrome

This is an emerging condition tied to obesity. Although it’s not classified as a type of eating disorder, as a syndrome, night eating is considered as a precursor to disordered eating. This disorder is characterized by delayed circadian timing of food intake. People who suffer from night eating syndrome will refuse to eat anything all day and then will compensate by eating excessively in the evening. The result is disrupted sleep, waking up frequently at night to feed, and being aware of their eating episodes.

The distinction between night eating and an actual eating disorder is that the former only involved large consumption of snacks and not full meals. In addition—unlike anorexia and bulimia nervosa—there is no period of purging to compensate for the excessive consumption of food late at night.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia nervosa is a little known eating disorder characterized by a deep fixation over consumption of “healthy” or “proper” food, rather than the amount of food being consumed. Individuals afflicted with Orthorexia nervosa will share behavioral patterns similar to those who are workaholics or have an exercise addiction. They will plan their meals obsessively, resist temptations, and even avoid certain people who do not share their dietary beliefs. They will also bring their own food whenever they are out.


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