What is an eating disorder?
Does someone you know seem overly preoccupied with food, their body weight, or their shape? If yes, then this person may be suffering from an eating disorder. Eating disorders are behavioral conditions that cause severe disturbance in eating habits. People suffering from eating disorders usually have upsetting thoughts and emotions regarding food. The disorder may cause serious conditions affecting physical, psychological, and social outcomes that interfere with the ability to function normally.
What are different types of eating disorders?
The most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
- Anorexia nervosa is described as self-starvation and is characterized by severe weight loss for the person's ideal height and weight class. Body mass index (BMI) is typically under 18.5 in an adult. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality of any psychiatric illness other than opioid use disorder. There are two types of anorexia nervosa:
- restricting type - individuals lose weight primarily by dieting, fasting, or excessively exercising
- Binge-eating or purging type - individuals engage in intermittent binge eating or purging behaviors along with their extreme diet and exercise.
- Bulimia nervosa is described as alternating between eating low-calorie foods and then secretly indulging in high-calorie foods excessively in a short period of time- also known as binge eating. To make up for binge eating, usually dangerous and unhealthy tactics are undergone to prevent weight gain. This may include fasting, vomiting, laxative misuse, or excessive exercise. People suffering from bulimia nervosa have varying weights- underweight, overweight, or normal weight. However, if the patient is underweight, this usually means they are anorexic. Similar to anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa are excessively preoccupied with thoughts of food, weight, or their perceived shape. This constant negativity impacts their health and self-image.
- Binge eating is similar to bulimia nervosa in that there is indulgence in large quantities of unhealthy food in a short period. However, unlike bulimia, binge eating does not involve compensatory behavior to counteract the increased calorie intake. People may feel like they lack control over their eating habits which later results in guilt. This disorder may lead to serious medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Other types of eating disorders include:
- Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a newer eating disorder that causes a disturbance in eating habits and receiving proper nutrition due to being an extremely picky eater.
- Another specified feeding and eating disorder is an eating disorder that does not meet the criteria of the other disorders listed. A person may participate in extreme dieting and exercise but not be considered underweight, so would not be diagnosed as anorexic.
- Pica disorder is the consumption of things that have no nutritional value, such as hair or paper. It is common in children who have autism and has a high potential of causing intestinal blockages.
- Rumination disorder is a constant regurgitation of food that causes malnutrition. It may be done unintentionally and is a common condition with infants.
Who suffers from this type of disorder?
5% of the American population suffers from an eating disorder. Both men and women can develop eating disorders. However, women are known to suffer from eating disorders more frequently than men. All who suffer from eating disorders appear to have a distorted view of their body image. Eating disorders appear to affect all socioeconomic, racial, and age demographics. Many eating disorders can occur at any time in life, but the average age range seems to be from 12-35 years old.