Types of Eating Disorders and Their Symptoms

Types of Eating Disorders and Their Symptoms-min

Eating disorders are health and mental conditions affecting many today. Knowing these disorders and their symptoms helps you recognize them in yourself or a person who could be affected by them and take the necessary actions to find the right help.

Apart from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, eating disorders also affect people today. In fact, according to WHO Reports of 2019, 30million people are affected by one form of eating disorder at some point in their lives. Although the term eating appears in the phrase, eating disorders go beyond just ‘eating,’ and involve one’s psychological and mental senses. The disorders come in different forms, with some people not eating and starving themselves, others overeating and becoming obese, and some eating then forcing themselves to get rid of the calories by vomiting. This article discusses the main types of eating disorders and their symptoms to help recognize them and take the right actions to manage them.

What are eating disorders, and what causes them?

Eating disorders denote a series of psychological conditions that give way to unhealthy eating habits. Eating disorders often start with a person being obsessed with food, shape, and weight, after which a culmination of unhealthy eating habits and health and mental conditions develop.

The causes of eating disorders are not yet clear. Still, studies point to several factors, including genetics, cultural ideals, brain factors, and biology, as well as the exposure to media platforms that promote some ideals. In a study that examined eating habits in twins born and separated from each other and later developed eating disorders, it was clear that heredity is a factor. The amounts of certain messengers such as dopamine and serotine could also cause eating disorders, although researchers are still on this. Some cultures, especially Western, promote thinness, and people who get exposed to media platforms that promote such ideologies have a likelihood of being obsessed with the ideals and develop eating disorders.

Common types of disorders and their symptoms

Here are the common types of eating disorders and their symptoms (or signs) to help you identify them and have the right help.

i.                    Anorexia nervosa

You are likely familiar with this form of eating disorder since it is the most popular eating disorder. The condition is characterized by a person denying himself food and overly restricting himself from eating. Such people often feel overweight even though they could be severely underweight for their age and height. Since they always feel overweight, they fear gaining ‘extra weight,’ which is why they restrict themselves from eating certain foods and gaining calories. In addition, individuals with anorexia nervosa are constantly in denial that being underweight is ever on the chase to lose more weight. There are two types of anorexia nervosa; the restricting type where a person watches his eating patterns and makes it overly restrictive, and the binge eating and purging type where a person eats then purges of through vomiting or using laxatives and diuretics.

ii.                 Pica

This is a less familiar form of eating disorder affecting both adults and children. It refers to the craving for non-food substances. These include chalk, soil, laundry detergents, textile materials, and paper. Adolescents, pregnant women, and people with disabilities are the widely affected categories. Often, pica puts its sufferers at increased risks of infections, poisoning, gut injuries and may even be fatal depending on what a person has eaten. For a case to be considered pica, a person’s peers must not consider the condition normal, and the condition must not be culturally or religiously acceptable.

iii.               Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder affects many people in the USA and beyond and is probably one of the most popular forms of eating disorders. Often, people develop binge eating at adolescence and early stages into manhood, but some develop the condition later in adulthood. In this type of disorder, a person eats large chunks of food over a short period and tends to be out of control for these conditions. This form of eating disorder is close to bulimia or the binge eating type of anorexia nervosa. However, after binge eating, the individuals do not try to purge themselves of the calories. After such episodes, they feel ashamed, guilty, or disgusted. Since this eating pattern is uncontrolled, the sufferers have increased risks of suffering from stroke, diabetes type 2, or heart disease.

iv.               Bulimia nervosa

Just like binge eating, people with bulimia nervosa eat unusually large chunks of food and have no control over the foods they would typically avoid. Such binge eating episodes normally occur at particular types, after which a series of purging off attempts follow. These include vomiting, use of diuretics and laxatives, fasting, or excessive exercise until a person relieves himself of the excess food and gut discomfort. Unlike binge eating that comes with obesity and increased risks for some diseases, bulimia nervosa has nothing to do with a person’s weight. In fact, adolescents and women who suffer from bulimia often maintain a normal weight.

v.                  Rumination disorder

As the name suggests, rumination disorder has characteristics of ruminants whereby an individual regurgitates the food he had eaten, re-chews it, and then spits it off or re-swallows. The condition occurs in infants, adolescents, and adults. It is often linked to being severely underweight, which is why it can be fatal. Without therapy and the right medications, rumination disorder can progress and end up claiming a person’s life.

vi.               Avoidance/ restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

This is an eating disorder that makes people undereat. It was formerly known as the ‘infancy and early childhood food intake disorder,’ but since it extends into adulthood despite affecting infants and children, its name was changed to AFRDI. The condition is characterized by an extreme dislike for a particular taste, smell, color, temperature, or anything that sends a person to undereat, leading to low weight and height development for a person’s age. It’s noteworthy that it does not include restrictive eating due to lack of availability or religious and cultural preferences. Such sufferers have to depend on tube feeding or nutritional supplements and often suffer from nutritional deficiencies.


Eating disorders describe a range of psychological conditions that create room for unhealthy eating habits. Genetics, brain & biology, cultural preferences, and obsession with shape and figure are some causes of eating disorders. Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, and pica. Find out their symptoms from this write-up.

Marie Salbuvik

Dietician MS, Lund University, Sweden Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.