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How Many Different Types Of Eating Disorders Are There

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What Are Eating Disorders

Different Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses affecting people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. People with eating disorders use disordered eating behaviour as a way to cope with difficult situations or feelings. This behaviour can include limiting the amount of food eaten, eating very large quantities of food at once, getting rid of food eaten through unhealthy means , or a combination of these behaviours.

Its important to remember that eating disorders are not all about food itself, but about feelings. The way the person treats food may make them feel more able to cope, or may make them feel in control, though they might not be aware of the purpose this behaviour is serving. An eating disorder is never the fault of the person experiencing it, and anyone who has an eating disorder deserves fast, compassionate support to help them get better.

So that healthcare professionals can choose the right kind of treatment for someone, there are a number of different eating disorders that someone can be diagnosed with. Its possible for someone to move between diagnoses if their symptoms change there is often a lot of overlap between different eating disorders.

Other Specified Feeding And Eating Disorders

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders was previously known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified in past editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Despite being considered a catch-all classification that was sometimes denied insurance coverage for treatment as it was seen as less serious, OSFED/EDNOS is a serious, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder. The category was developed to encompass those individuals who did not meet strict diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa but still had a significant eating disorder. In community clinics, the majority of individuals were historically diagnosed with EDNOS.Common Signs & Symptoms:Because OSFED encompasses a wide variety of eating disordered behaviors, any or all of the following symptoms may be present in people with OSFED.

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting
  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or lots of empty wrappers and containers indicating consumption of large amounts of food
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image
  • Dieting behavior
  • Expresses a need to burn off calories taken in
  • Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics

Other Specified Feeding And Eating Disorder

If an eating disorder doesn’t seem to neatly fit the description of an anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder diagnosis, it may be classified as an Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder . Atypical anorexia fits under this umbrella, because people who have it don’t necessarily fit the criteria of being underweight. “Often these individuals are at a higher weight when the eating disorder begins, and so at first their weight loss is not seen as a cause for concern by family and friends it may even be celebrated,” says Weatherston-Yarborough. Diet culture can be especially toxic for people who have atypical anorexia, because it might not recognize their weight loss or restrictive eating as a physical and mental illness. “It actually prevents them from being diagnosed and accessing treatment as quickly as people who are underweight,” she adds.

Other eating disorders that fall under OSFED are bulimia or binge eating episodes that occur on an infrequent basis, purging disorder, which involves purging but without bingeing, and night eating syndrome , the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa states. In general, it’s best to watch out for signs of obsessive dieting or exercising, skipping meals and overeating at other meals, and other unhealthy dieting or self-esteem-related behaviors.

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What Are The Types Of Eating Disorders

Common types of eating disorders include

  • Binge-eating, which is out-of-control eating. People with binge-eating disorder keep eating even after they are full. They often eat until they feel very uncomfortable. Afterward, they usually have feelings of guilt, shame, and distress. Eating too much too often can lead to weight gain and obesity. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.
  • Bulimia nervosa. People with bulimia nervosa also have periods of binge-eating. But afterwards, they purge, by making themselves throw up or using laxatives. They may also over-exercise or fast. People with bulimia nervosa may be slightly underweight, normal weight, or overweight.
  • Anorexia nervosa. People with anorexia nervosa avoid food, severely restrict food, or eat very small quantities of only certain foods. They may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. Anorexia nervosa is the least common of the three eating disorders, but it is often the most serious. It has the highest death rate of any mental disorder.

How Do Eating Disorders Affect Health And Emotions

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Eating disorders can cause serious problems throughout the body.

Anorexia can lead to health problems caused by undernutrition and low body weight, such as:

  • low blood pressure
  • feeling tired, weak, dizzy, or faint
  • constipation and bloating

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Media And The Environment

The average person lives their life awash in images of perfect-looking men, women, girls, boys, and non-gender-identified individuals. Most people are inundated with concepts of attractiveness that focus on being thin, trim, or fit.

Teens and children often lack the tools to cope with the feelings these images cause.

According to the Dove Girls and Beauty Confidence: The Global Report, more than half of girls around the world lack high body self-esteem. Eighty percent avoid activities they would otherwise engage in, while seventy percent risk their health to stay slim or report being less assertive when they dont look how they want to.

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is an obsession with an imaginary defect in physical appearance or an extreme concern with a slight physical blemish, which others may not even see. People struggling with body dysmorphic disorder have inaccurate perceptions of their body and often specific body parts, such as the hair, skin and nose.

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How To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder

Treatment for any eating disorder involves admitting there’s a problem, addressing the physical issues and getting intensive, often long-term, treatment for the psychological disorder that has caused it and keeps it going.

If you think someone you love has an eating disorder, being supportive is key. You need to help them to recognise that they have a serious medical condition which goes much further than food and needs medical help. People with eating disorders are often secretive and they’re likely to be sensitive if you broach the subject. You may want to talk to their GP in confidence and get ideas on how to persuade them to seek help. Reassure them you’re ‘on their side’ – you could be their salvation.

What If I Have An Eating Disorder

Eating Disorders: Various Types – Teenology 101

If you think you may have an eating disorder:

Tell someone. Tell a parent, teacher, counselor, or an adult you trust. Let them know what you’re going through. Ask them to help.

Get help early. When an eating disorder is caught early, a person has a better chance of recovery. Make an appointment with your doctor or an eating disorders specialist.

Go to all appointments. Treatment takes time and effort. Work hard to learn about yourself and your emotions. Ask questions any time you have them.

Be patient with yourself. There’s so much to learn, and change happens a little at a time. Take care of yourself and be with people who support you.

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What Is Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder consists of recurrent episodes of binge eating. People struggling with binge eating disorder might eat much more rapidly than normal, eat until feeling uncomfortably full, eat large amounts of food without feeling physically hungry, or feel guilty, disgusted or depressed after eating.

People Of Every Body Size Gender Or Age Can Struggle With Their Relationship With Food

Conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder keep people from maintaining a healthy weight or from having a healthy relationship with food. While often assumed to be just a phase, eating disorders can have deadly outcomes if not properly addressed.

It is important to note that eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. Those who have these conditions are not making a conscious decision to treat their bodies poorly. They arent over-dieting or being uptight. People with eating disorders are mentally and physically unwell and need medical and/or mental health assistance to move towards recovery.

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What Is Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a condition where people have recurrent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over their eating. This binge eating is followed by behaviors that compensate for the overeating to prevent weight gain, such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike those with anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa may maintain a normal weight or be overweight.

Symptoms and health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth from exposure to stomach acid when vomiting
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging
  • Electrolyte imbalance , which can lead to stroke or heart attack

Other Specified Feeding Or Eating Disorders

Various Eating Disorders

Other specified feeding or eating disorders is typically diagnosed when someone has symptoms of eating disorders but doesnt meet the criteria for any of the eating disorders listed in the DSM-5.

The OSFED classifications cover a broad range of conditions. Symptoms of OSFED often cause stress, social problems, and affect functioning in other areas of life.

Like all eating disorders, OSFED can become severe and life threatening if left untreated.

Eating disorders that fall under the OSFED classification include:

  • Atypical anorexia nervosa: similar to anorexia nervosa with weight loss and potential nutritional and medical side effects, though they are at an average or above-average body weight
  • Purging disorder: self-induced vomiting, excessive laxative use, or the use of other medications not following an episode of binge eating
  • Night eating syndrome:frequently waking up and eating, or excessive eating in the evenings after dinner

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Other Eating Disorders And Eating Problems

Other specified feeding and eating disorder

OFSED means you have symptoms of an eating disorder, but you dont have all the typical symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or BED. You may have a mixture of symptoms from different eating disorders. This doesnt mean that your illness is less serious.

Emotional overeating

You turn to food when you have negative feelings if you are an emotional overeater. These can be feelings like anxiety or sadness. Eating food may help you to feel comforted.

Lots of people use food to help manage feelings, this is normal. But it may become a problem if this is the only management technique that you have, or you are beginning to feel out of control. Emotional overeating can cause feelings of guilt and shame.


With pica, you eat non-food objects such as chalk, paint, stones and clothing. There is no nutritional benefit from eating these items and some can be harmful. Pica can lead to further health concerns such as dental and stomach problems.

Rumination disorder

You will chew and spit out food without swallowing it if you have rumination disorder. You may do this repeatedly.

Selective eating disorder

You will only eat certain foods and may refuse to try other foods if you have SED. This is common in young children. But the problem can continue into adulthood.

Orthorexia nervosa

In this section

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor

If you have an eating disorder, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What type of eating disorder do I have?
  • What is the best treatment for the eating disorder I have?
  • What are the treatment risks and side effects?
  • What type of follow-up care do I need after treatment?
  • Should I look out for signs of complications?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Eating disorders are a serious problem that can affect your mental and physical health. If you think you have an eating disorder, dont be embarrassed about seeking help. Millions of Americans struggle every day with an eating disorder. With proper medical care and mental health counseling, you can get better. Years of living with an untreated eating disorder can harm your physical health and may lead to life-threatening problems. Take the first step to protecting your well-being by talking to your healthcare provider.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/07/2020.


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What Are The Different Kinds Of Eating Disorders

How to recognize the most common ones

Hannah Sheldon-Dean

When most people think of an eating disorder, what comes to mind is a painfully thin young woman who eats almost nothing. But there are actually three common eating disorders. Not everyone with an eating disorder appears underweight, and not all are women.

Three of the most common eating disorders in children and teenagers are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

Other eating issues that kids may be diagnosed with include avoidant restrictive food intake disorder , rumination disorder, and pica. Kids who have serious problems with eating that dont match any of these disorders sometimes get a broad diagnosis called unspecified eating and feeding disorder.

Treatments For Eating Disorders

10 Different Types of Eating Disorders Explained

Starting treatment as early as possible is important because there can be long-term health consequences for people with chronic eating disorders.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating eating disorders since everyone is different. Often a team of health professionals is involved in an individual’s treatment, including a psychologist, dietitian and doctor.

Some of the treatment options include:

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How Are Eating Disorders Managed Or Treated

Treatments for eating disorders vary depending on the type and your specific needs. Even if you dont have a diagnosed eating disorder, an expert can help you address and manage food-related issues. Treatments include:

  • Psychotherapy: A mental health professional can determine the best psychotherapy for your situation. Many people with eating disorders improve with cognitive behavioral therapy . This form of therapy helps you understand and change distorted thinking patterns that drive behaviors and emotions.
  • Maudsley approach: This form of family therapy helps parents of teenagers with anorexia. Parents actively guide a childs eating while they learn healthier habits.
  • Medications: Some people with eating disorders have other conditions, like anxiety or depression. Taking antidepressants or other medications can improve these conditions. As a result, your thoughts about yourself and food improve.
  • Nutrition counseling: A registered dietitian with training in eating disorders can help improve eating habits and develop nutritious meal plans. This specialist can also offer tips for grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation.

The best treatment approach is often a combination of all of these professionals working together to obtain a comprehensive treatment to address the physical, mental and behavioral aspects.

How To Treat Eating Disorders

Due to the insidious ways in which eating disorders pervade all aspects of ones body, mind, and life, receiving the appropriate treatment is important. There are various levels of care designed to treat specific stages of eating disorder severitythese range from inpatient at a medical facility down to outpatient. Any eating disorder treatment center can assess a struggling individual to determine the appropriate level of care.

Outside of receiving treatment in general, it is also important to ensure the facility uses evidence-based practices, as these can lead to better long-term outcomes.

There are many evidence-based treatments that can support eating disorder recovery the most well-known and most commonly used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy , Dialectical Behavior Therapy , and Family-Based Treatment .

Do not be afraid to ask any questions that arise if you or a loved one are searching for the treatment that will best support recovery.

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Different Types Of Eating Disorders

Nine percent, or nearly 30 million, people suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Even more alarming is that one person will die from an eating disorder every 52 minutes, according to statistics.

The most talked-about eating disorder types are anorexia and bulimia. What you may not know is that other, less common disorders are just as dangerous.

Knowing the truth about eating disorders can help you recognize how important it is to get help if you are struggling or know someone who is struggling. All eating disorders can affect both males and females.

Here are 13 different types of eating disorders.

How Are Eating Disorders Diagnosed

Eating Disorders and Addiction

Health care providers and mental health professionals diagnose eating disorders based on history, symptoms, thought patterns, eating behaviors, and an exam.

The doctor will check weight and height and compare these to previous measurements on growth charts. The doctor may order tests to see if there is another reason for the eating problems and to check for problems caused by the eating disorder.

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Are There Different Types Of Eating Disorders

Yes. The most common types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia: Anorexia involves restricting food intake, significant weight loss, intense fear of weight gain, and a distorted perception of appearance. Its often accompanied by very specific rules and rituals around food and social isolation.
  • Bulimia: Bulimia involves binging and purging. Binging means a person eats an abnormally large amount of food in a short time frame. They feel ashamed and out of control while eating. Binging is followed by purging in the form of vomiting, laxative or drug use, fasting, or over exercise.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: Binge eating disorder is diagnosed when a person repeatedly consumes abnormally large amounts of food in short timeframes. It is distinct from overeating in that is causes serious pain and shame and the person feels out of control during binges.
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder : formerly referred to as Eating Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified , this is a term used when someone has eating disorder behaviors but doesnt meet the full clinical guidelines for other eating disorders. For example, a person restricts food intake, has an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of their appearance. They are not classified as being underweight by their doctor, which means they do not meet full criteria for anorexia despite having all the other signs. They would be considered OSFED.

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