Eating disorders cause disruption or disturbances in eating patterns and related thoughts and behaviour causing distress to one’s mental and physical health. Having an Eating Disorder is not a conscious choice or something one can decide to start or stop doing. They are serious but treatable physical and mental illnesses that can impact people irrespective of their gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, body shape, and weight.
While it is not completely clear what the causes of eating disorders are for sure, there is growing consensus that causes consist of a range of psychological, biological and sociocultural factors. When one suffers from an eating disorder, they themselves often do not understand or see the severity of it.
Sometimes they don’t have the awareness or knowledge about eating disorders or sometimes they feel shame or guilt attached to talking about it. This makes it harder for them to access help. However, early intervention and treatment fastens recovery, reduces symptoms and improves the likelihood of staying free of the eating disorder.
While often mental health diagnoses are evolving and don’t always encompass or accurately include each and every person’s feelings, they are helpful to understand the nature of distress. The diagnoses can be used as a benchmark to provide evidence based effective treatment. If your relationship with food or body image feels stressful to you irrespective of fitting into any diagnostic criteria or not, you deserve to get support and help. Research shows that many people with subclinical eating disorders will go on to develop full eating disorders, so early intervention can be helpful.
The eating disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual used to diagnose psychiatric disorders by mental health practitioners, include the following disorders. All explanations below are in line with the diagnostic criteria of DSM V.
Types of Eating Disorders
About Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a restricted intake of food which leads to a lower than expected body weight, fear of weight gain, and disturbance in body image. In severe cases it can cause significant mental distress, malnutrition, anemia, irregular period and other physical illnesses. There are two subtypes of Anorexia Nervosa based on symptoms – Restricting subtype and Binge-Purge subtype.
About Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder, has been recently recognised as an eating disorder, and is the most common eating disorder affecting approximately 2-3% of people. It is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating at least once a week where symptoms have lasted for at least the last 3 months. A Binge is defined as the consumption of a large amount of food in a short period of time accompanied by a feeling of loss of control. People who binge often do so in private and can have feelings of guilt or disgust after the binge is complete. When you have Binge eating disorder there is no recurrent use of compensatory behavior such as excessive exercise, vomiting or use of laxatives.
About Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa involves recurrent episodes of binge eating where one eats a large amount of food in a short period of time and a sense of lack of control while the binge occurs. This is followed by compensatory behaviors—behaviors designed to make up for the calories consumed. These behaviors may include vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, and laxative or diuretics use.
About Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder-(OSFED)
Other specified feeding and eating disorders encompass a broad range of eating problems that cause significant distress and impairment in occupational, social, or other important areas of daily functioning but do not fall under the formal diagnosis for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.
People who are diagnosed with OSFED might often feel their feelings were invalidated or that they don’t deserve help, which is not true. OSFED can also be as serious as other eating disorders and also include subclinical eating disorders.
Examples of OSFED include:
- Atypical Anorexia Nervosa occurs when one has the symptoms of anorexia including significant weight loss, but the weight is currently at or above a normal range.
- Binge Eating Disorder with binges that are not as frequent or do not happen over a long period as required for it to be formally diagnosed.
- Bulimia Nervosa that is not as frequent or where the symptoms have not persisted for as long as needed for the formal diagnosis.
- Purging Disorder occurs when someone vomits in the absence of binge eating.
- Night Eating Syndrome occurs when a person consumes at least one – fourth of their daily intake after dinner.
About Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disturbance that keeps people from meeting their nutritional needs. People who are dealing with ARFID may experience noticeable weight loss, dependence on nutritional supplements, impact on their psychosocial functioning or nutritional deficiencies.
Pica involves eating materials that have negligible nutritional value over a time period of at least 1 month. Someone struggling with pica might eat items like ice, clay, soil or paper.
About Rumination Disorder
Rumination Disorder consists of repeated regurgitation of food for a period of least one month. This includes re-chewing, re-swallowing or spitting out food.