At least 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. That’s more than the population of the entire state of Texas. Even more startling, every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. With ever-present imagery from social media and the constant expectation to be fit, thin, young, and beautiful to be liked (or possibly more important for some, to earn intangible social likes), the prevalence of eating disorders is growing among all ages and genders. If you believe that someone you love may be suffering from an eating disorder, or if you are the one suffering, read on to learn about the current known types of eating disorders, and understand when it’s time to get help.
Types of Eating Disorders
A variety of illnesses characterized by varying behavior patterns and physical side effects make up the eating disorder diagnosis category. Such illnesses include:
- Anorexia Nervosa – A preoccupation with weight, dieting, food restriction, and excessive exercise that results in dramatic weight loss.
- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) – Eating habits that restrict the consumption of certain foods based on smell, taste, texture, past negative experiences, or a fear of choking or vomiting.
- Binge Eating Disorder – A frequent, recurring, overconsumption of food in a short period, often accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, and a loss of control.
- Bulimia Nervosa – A behavior pattern that involves overconsumption of food, a practice that is known as bingeing, followed by purging, or self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives to rid the body of food before calories can be fully consumed.
- Compulsive Exercise – Excessive exercise that significantly interferes with and impairs daily life occurs at inappropriate times or in improper settings, or continues despite an injury or other medical complications.
- Diabulimia – A behavior practiced by individuals with insulin-dependent Diabetes who intentionally restrict insulin to lose weight.
- Orthorexia – A preoccupation with “healthy” or “clean” foods and a refusal to eat certain food groups, such as carbohydrates or sugars.
- Otherwise Specified Feeding Disorder (OSFED) – This diagnosis is used for individuals who present a specified eating disorder with atypical symptoms, such as an anorexic individual who, despite rapid weight loss, remains within or above a healthy weight range.
- Pica – A persistent eating of non-food items that do not provide nutritional value, such as ice, clay soil, hair, dirt, paper, string, soap, chalk, metal, pebbles, charcoal, or starch.
- Rumination Disorder – The repeated, involuntary regurgitation of food that is then re-swallowed or spit out.
How to Get Help with an Eating Disorder
If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, or believe that you are developing an unhealthy relationship with food, reach out to get help. Start with your doctor. He or she can provide a diagnosis and work with you to treat not just the eating disorder but any associated symptoms, developing physical health issues and accompanying emotional or mental health complications, such as depression or anxiety. For many patients, larger factors are causing obsessive thoughts and behaviors with food. By understanding your life, symptoms, and beliefs comprehensively, your doctor can help you put a plan in place to start redeveloping a healthy relationship with food—and your body.