Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

A serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Symptoms

  • Food restriction leading to significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, development, and physical health
  • Intense fear of weight gain or becoming fat
  • Persistent behavior interfering with weight gain despite low weight, such as fasting or excessive exercise
  • Disturbed experience of one’s body weight or shape, influenced by self-evaluation or persistent lack of recognizing the seriousness of current low body weight
  • Restricting behavior or binge eating and purging behaviors

Medical Complications and Associated Features

  • Signs of depression, such as depressed mood, social withdrawal, irritability, insomnia, and diminished interest in sex
  • Obsessive-compulsive features, both related and unrelated to food
  • Elevated suicide risk
  • Impaired cognitive functioning
  • Compromised height and stature
  • Low body weight
  • Delayed puberty, lack of development
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Amenorrhea (menstrual irregularity)
  • Gastrointestinal complications such as stomach aches, bloating, constipation, and acid reflux
  • Vital sign disturbances, such as dangerously low blood pressure
  • Loss of and/or weakened heart muscle
  • Heart palpitations and chest pain
  • Bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate) or tachycardia (abnormally elevated heart rate)
  • Heart failure
  • Edema

Bulimia Nervosa

A serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting, designed to undo or compensate for the effects of the binge eating.

Symptoms

  • Regular binge eating behavior, or intake of large amounts of food accompanied by a sense of loss of control over eating behavior
  • Regular purging behavior, or recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise
  • Cycles of binge eating and purging occurring at least once a week
  • Disturbed experience of one’s body weight or shape, potentially influenced by self-evaluation
  • May be in normal weight or overweight range for BMI

Medical Complications and Associated Features

  • Elevated suicide risk
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Diminished gag reflex and difficulty swallowing
  • Esophageal tears
  • Gastrointestinal complications such as constipation, loss of bowel function, GI bleeding, acid reflux, gastric rupture, and rectal prolapse
  • Amenorrhea (menstrual irregularity)
  • Infertility
  • Premature and/or low-weight births
  • Dental complications such as cavities, extreme tooth sensitivity and enamel loss, and bleeding gums
  • Callused or scarred fingers
  • Ophthalmologic complications such as ruptured blood vessels or retinal detachment
  • Chronic dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rate)

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

A serious eating disorder characterized by recurrent binge eating without the use of inappropriate compensatory weight control behaviors.

Symptoms

  • Regular binge eating behavior, or intake of large amounts of food accompanied by a sense of loss of control over eating behavior
  • Binge eating episodes associated with eating much more rapidly than usual, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry, eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating, or feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after an episode
  • Marked distress regarding binge eating behaviors
  • Episodes occurring regularly, around once a week
  • Binge eating not associated with recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior such as those presented in bulimia nervosa

Medical Complications and Associated Features

  • Impaired health-related quality of life and life satisfaction
  • Weight gain or obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease
  • Type II diabetes mellitus
  • Gallbladder disease

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

A serious eating disorder characterized by eating and feeding disturbances resulting in significant weight loss and other medical complications.

Symptoms

  • Eating or feeding disturbance, such as an apparent lack of interest in eating or food, avoiding food based on its sensory characteristics, or concern about aversive consequences of eating, not better explained by lack of available food or an associated culturally sanctioned practice
  • Persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and energy needs
  • Significant weight loss, significant nutritional deficiency, dependence on enteral feeding or oral supplements, and/or marked interference with psychosocial functioning
  • Lack of disturbed perception and experience of one’s own body weight or shape
  • Behavior described as restrictive, selective, choosy, or perseverant eating
  • Presence of a conditioned negative response associated with food intake such as choking or repeated vomiting

Medical Complications and Associated Features

  • Weight loss or faltering growth
  • Generalized emotional difficulties, sometimes referred to as “food avoidance emotional disorder”
  • Mirroring of medical complications and associated features of anorexia nervosa

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

The majority of those with eating disorders do not fall within the guidelines for anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder and are classified as OSFED. To be diagnosed as having OSFED a person must present with a feeding or eating behaviors that cause clinically significant distress and impairment in areas of functioning, but do not meet the full criteria for any of the other feeding and eating disorders.

A diagnosis might then be allocated that specifies a specific reason why the presentation does not meet the specifics of another disorder (e.g. Bulimia Nervosa- low frequency). The following are further examples for OSFED:

  1. Atypical Anorexia Nervosa: All criteria are met, except despite significant weight loss, the individual’s weight is within or above the normal range.
  2. Binge Eating Disorder (of low frequency and/or limited duration): All of the criteria for BED are met, except at a lower frequency and/or for less than three months.
  3. Bulimia Nervosa (of low frequency and/or limited duration): All of the criteria for Bulimia Nervosa are met, except that the binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behavior occurs at a lower frequency and/or for less than three months.
  4. Purging Disorder: Recurrent purging behavior to influence weight or shape in the absence of binge eating
  5. Night Eating Syndrome: Recurrent episodes of night eating. Eating after awakening from sleep, or by excessive food consumption after the evening meal. There is an awareness and recall of the eating.The behavior is not better explained by environmental influences or social norms. The behavior causes significant distress/impairment, and is not better explained by another mental health disorder (e.g. BED).

Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED)

This category applies to where behaviors cause clinically significant distress/impairment of functioning, but do not meet the full criteria of any of the Feeding or Eating Disorder criteria. This category may be used by clinicians where a clinician chooses not to specify why criteria are not met, including presentations where there may be insufficient information to make a more specific diagnosis (e.g. in emergency room settings).

Disclaimer: The material on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Always consult your physician or other qualified health provider for diagnosis and treatment of any health-related matter.