Eating disorders are a range of psychological conditions that cause unhealthy eating habits to develop. They might start with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape.
In severe cases, eating disorders can cause serious health consequences and may even result in death if left untreated. They can affect anyone but are most prevalent among young women.
What causes them?
Experts believe that eating disorders may be caused by a variety of factors. These include genetics, brain
biology, personality traits, and cultural ideals.
1. Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is likely the most well-known eating disorder.
Generally developing during adolescence or young adulthood, people with anorexia generally view
themselves as overweight, even if they’re dangerously underweight. They tend to constantly monitor their weight, avoid eating certain types of foods, and severely restrict their calories.
Anorexia is categorized into two subtypes — the restricting type and the binge eating and purging type.
Individuals with the restricting type lose weight solely through dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise.
Individuals with the binge eating and purging type may binge on large amounts of food or eat very little.
In both cases, after they eat, they purge using activities like vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, or exercising excessively.
2. Bulimia nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is another well-known eating disorder.
Like anorexia, bulimia tends to develop during adolescence and early adulthood and appears to be less
common among men than women.
People with bulimia frequently eat unusually large amounts of food in a specific period of time then
attempt to purge to compensate for the calories consumed and relieve gut discomfort.
Common purging behaviors include forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and excessive
People with Bulimia are usually of normal weight.
3. Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is believed to be one of the most common eating disorders.
It typically begins during adolescence and early adulthood, although it can develop later on.
Individuals with this disorder have symptoms similar to those of bulimia or the binge eating subtype of
anorexia in that they typically eat unusually large amounts of food in relatively short periods of time and
feel a lack of control during binges.
However, people with binge eating disorder do not restrict calories or use purging behaviors, such as
vomiting or excessive exercise, to compensate for their binges.
People with binge eating disorder are often overweight or obese.
Pica is another eating disorder that involves eating things that are not considered food.
Individuals with pica crave non-food substances, such as ice, dirt, soil, chalk, soap, paper, hair, cloth, wool, pebbles, laundry detergent, or cornstarch. Pica can occur in adults, as well as children and adolescents.
5. Rumination disorder
Rumination disorder is another newly recognized eating disorder. It describes a condition in which a person regurgitates food they have previously chewed and swallowed, re-chews it, and then either re-swallows it or spits it out.
This rumination typically occurs within the first 30 minutes after a meal. Unlike medical conditions like reflux, it’s voluntary.
This disorder can develop during infancy, childhood, or adulthood. In infants, it tends to develop between 3–12 months of age and often disappears on its own. Children and adults with the condition usually require therapy to resolve it.
6. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a new name for an old disorder.
The term replaces what was known as a “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood,” a diagnosis previously reserved for children under 7 years old.
Although ARFID generally develops during infancy or early childhood, it can persist into adulthood.
What’s more, it’s equally common among men and women.
Individuals with this disorder experience disturbed eating either due to a lack of interest in eating or distaste for certain smells, tastes, colors, textures, or temperatures.
The bottom line is eating disorders are mental health conditions that can be very damaging to the body if left untreated.
We, at First Steps, have extensive experience working with eating disorders and knowledge of the best programs around the country if that is needed for your individual treatment.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they text to 741741.