What is Professional Help for an Eating Disorder
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  • Writer's pictureKate Ringwood, LPC

Unraveling the Different Types of Eating Disorders

road to recovery of an eating disorder

 If reading about symptoms of different types of eating disorders may be triggering for you, please skip this blog post.

Eating disorders are a mental health condition that affects individuals of all ages, genders, sexual orientation, culture, and body size.  We know that they go beyond concerns around food or weight, often stemming from much deeper emotional struggles.  Here we will explore the different types of eating disorders and how they differ. 

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is characterized by restriction, intense fear of gaining weight, and negative body image.  This often looks like engaging in extreme dieting, such as eliminating certain food groups or not eating enough to sustain your body’s needs.  Anorexia has one of the highest overall morality rates and highest suicide rate of any psychiatric disorder.  About 25% of those struggling with Anorexia are males, despite the common myth of eating disorders being just females.  

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is defined as episodes of binge eating with compensatory behaviors and negative body image.  Binge eating is a larger amount of food eaten within a certain time period.  One often feels out of control, guilt, and shame, leading to hiding food or eating when others are not present.  Compensatory behaviors can be anything from purging, compulsive exercise, laxatives, or diet pills.  More than half of those with Bulimia also struggle with an anxiety disorder and similar to Anorexia, about 25% of those struggling are also male.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge Eating Disorder is marked as recurrent episodes of binge eating, similar to bulimia.  However, there is no engagement in compensatory behaviors.  This can lead to significant physical and emotional distress.  There are often high levels of disgust with oneself, depression, and embarrassment.  Binge Eating Disorder is the most common eating disorder, even more common than breast cancer!  About 30-40% of those looking to lose weight, have BED and about 40% of those with BED are males.  Despite the common myth, only about 70% of those diagnosed with BED are considered “obese”, according to medical terminology.

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED)

This one is a bit less specific.  It basically takes the above diagnoses and says if you do not fit the full criteria, you may have OSFED.  If you are struggling with restriction, however, are not considered underweight, or if you have all the behaviors of bulimia or BED with lower frequency of behaviors, this would be OSFED.  There is also purging disorder that is classified under OSFED where there is no restricting or binging but purging behaviors, as well as night eating syndrome.  Night eating syndrome is when one wakes up in the middle of the night to eat.  

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is a different type of eating disorder than the above, because there is no negative body image present.  It focuses on the anxiety and stress that food presents when it comes to swallowing, choking, vomiting, or certain textures.  This presents with the elimination of many foods and severe malnourishment.  ARFID is commonly seen in those diagnosed with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In conclusion, it is important to know the different types of eating disorders.  However, many folks that struggle with one, may also struggle with another at some point in their recovery.  You do not need to be put into one specific box in order to need help.  If you can relate to even ONE of these symptoms discussed in this article, you deserve help.  At Serendipity Counseling Services, we are here to support you through your recovery, whether you have a specific diagnosis, or just want to improve your relationship with food.

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