Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Types & Causes 2023

Eating disorders include numerous conditions that manifest through alterations in eating behavior with negative consequences for health and the functioning of the person in different areas of their lives, such as family or work. The disturbances caused by an eating disorder can be very serious.

Our society, together with psychological and genetic factors, influence its appearance at any age, although adolescence is a stage of risk. In this Psychologyorg article, we are going to explain the types of eating disorders and their Causes. Find out what this type of disorder consists of, when they start, and how to recognize them.

What are eating disorders

Eating disorders are alterations in eating behavior associated with physical complications and mortality. The mortality rate from eating disorders is one of the highest among psychiatric disorders.

An Eating disorder can occur in both men and women. Presently, there are 4 kinds of eating disorders identified by the DSM Diagnostic Manual: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and eating disorder not otherwise identified.

Some individuals may carry between diagnoses if their manifestations change, as there is some overlapping between some disorders. The objective of the diagnosis is for the person to follow the most appropriate treatment for their case.

Symptoms of eating disorders

This alteration can manifest itself in various ways. Let’s look at the most common symptoms of eating disorder:

  • Imitate the amount of food eaten.
  • Eating enormous portions of food at one time.
  • Eliminate food eaten by unhealthy means: such as purging, laxatives, fasting, excessive exercise, etc.
  • A combination of the above behaviors.

In many cases, the eating disorder is accompanied by depression, anxiety, personality disorders, or substance abuse.

Eating Disorders

When do eating disorders appear?

Adolescence is a risky stage for eating disorders, but they can appear at any age. In many cases, there is a period of time from the onset of the disorder to the start of treatment, which negatively affects the duration of the eating disorder and the results of said treatment.

How long do eating disorders last?

Studies show that early detection and intervention can greatly reduce the duration and severity of the eating disorder. Therefore, it is very important to seek professional help as soon as possible, since complete recovery is possible with proper treatment. Research indicates that the sooner treatment is started, the shorter the recovery period.

Seeking help at the first warning sign is much more effective than waiting for the disorder to fully manifest itself.

Types of eating disorders

There are different types of eating disorders. Next, we will see which are the most common and their characteristics.

Anorexia Nervosa

The symptoms of this disorder are:

  • Continued restriction of food infusion: An individual with anorexia nervosa is incapable to maintain a healthy weight and may lose a considerable amount of weight in a quick span of time.
  • Intense fear of gaining weight: Even if you are underweight, malnourished, or hungry, you still have an intense fear of gaining weight or being overweight.
  • Body image distortion – A person with anorexia nervosa directs much of their attention to their body and body image. A person’s self-esteem can be completely defined by their physical appearance or by how they think others see them. In addition, you may develop a distorted view of your body, seeing yourself as overweight when you are actually underweight.

Anorexia nervosa is one of the eating disorders that can become a way of controlling areas of life that the person feels are out of their control. Body image can come to define your self-esteem. It can also be a way of expressing emotions that may seem overly complex or frightening, such as pain, stress, or anxiety. nervosa manifests vary in each person. Among the most common causes are genetic predisposition and a combination of environmental, social, and cultural factors. Restrictive diets and excessive physical exercise may also be risk factors for the onset of anorexia.

Bulimia Nervosa

One of the types of eating disorders is characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors. In addition, they place an excessive emphasis on their body image and weight, which means that their self-esteem can be defined entirely by these aspects. Some of the general reasons contain genetic inclination and a combination of environmental, social, and cultural aspects.

Binge-eating episodes have different symptoms. Let’s see the main characteristics of this eating disorder are:

  • Eating a large amount of food in a relatively short period of time, for example, 2 hours.
  • The feeling of loss of control over eating: the person is unable to stop eating.
  • Compensatory behaviors are used as a way to try to control weight after binge eating.
  • vomiting
  • Use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Excessive physical exercise.
  • Use of any drug inappropriately to control weight, that is, the use is not indicated or prescribed.
  • Fast.

A person with bulimia can feel lost in that cycle of binge eating and compensation, feeling shame, guilt, etc. Furthermore, these behaviors can become compulsive and uncontrollable over time and lead to an obsession with food, weight loss, dieting, etc. People with bulimia often experience weight fluctuations and fail to lose or stay in the healthy weight range.

Binge eating disorder

Another category of eating disorder is binge eating disorder. This is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating in which the person loses control over food intake and cannot stop eating despite wanting to.

The most common binge eating disorders are:

  • Identifiable Eating Habits – Such as eating very quickly, eating when they are not hungry, and continuing to do so even when full to the point of feeling unwell.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame.
  • They usually occur in periods of high stress, when the person is angry, bored, etc.
  • It is used as a way of coping with certain situations or emotions.

Unlike a person with bulimia nervosa, a person with a binge eating disorder does not use compensatory behaviors. Multiple individuals with binge eating disorders are overweight or fat. Known causes include genetic factors, a combination of environmental, social, and cultural factors. 

Unspecified eating disorders

Finally, if we talk about types of eating disorders, it is also important to mention unspecified eating disorders. People who have them may have some of the symptoms described above for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, but they do not meet the criteria for diagnosis of those particular disorders.

Eating Disorders

If you want to read more articles similar to Types of eating disorders and their Causes, we recommend that you enter our Mental Disorders category.

Read Also: Types of personality disorders DSM 5 psychologyorg


What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by abnormal eating habits and distorted attitudes toward food, weight, and body image. It often involves a preoccupation with food, severe restriction of food intake, binge eating, or purging behaviors.

What are the common types of eating disorders?

The most typical classifications of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Other determined feeding or eating disorders (OSFED) and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorders (ARFID) are also recognized eating disorders.

Can eating disorders be treated?

Yes, eating disorders can be treated, and early intervention is crucial for successful recovery. Treatment typically involves a multidisciplinary approach that may include psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, medical monitoring, and, in some cases, medication. Help from relatives, friends, and support groups can also be helpful.

What causes eating disorders?

The accurate reasons for eating disorders are complex and can concern a combination of genetic, physical, psychological, and environmental factors. Factors such as genetics, societal pressures, family dynamics, trauma, and low self-esteem may contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

Are eating disorders serious?

Yes, eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can have severe physical and emotional consequences. They can lead to malnutrition, organ damage, electrolyte imbalances, hormonal disturbances, depression, anxiety, and even death if left untreated.

What are the warning symptoms of an eating disorder?

Warning signs of an eating disorder can vary but may include significant weight loss or fluctuations, obsessive calorie counting, extreme food restriction, excessive exercise, frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, preoccupation with body weight and shape, and changes in mood or behavior.

Who can develop an eating disorder?

Eating disorders can impact a person of any gender, age, or experience. They are more common among teenagers and young adults, but they can occur at any stage of life. Eating disorders can affect both males and females, although they are often stereotypically associated with females.

How are eating disorders diagnosed?

A healthcare professional, such as a doctor or mental health specialist, can diagnose an eating disorder through a comprehensive physical examination, evaluation of eating behaviors, weight history, and psychological assessment. Diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are commonly used.

How long does eating disorder recovery take?

The duration of eating disorder recovery varies for each individual. It depends on factors such as the severity of the disorder, the individual’s commitment to treatment, the presence of co-occurring conditions, and the support available. Recovery is a gradual process that requires ongoing support and may take months or even years.

Can someone fully recover from an eating disorder?

Yes, with appropriate treatment and support, it is possible for individuals to achieve full recovery from an eating disorder. However, it is important to note that recovery is a unique journey, and relapses can occur. Building a healthy relationship with food and body image is a long-term process that may require ongoing maintenance.

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