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Eating Disorders

Types of Eating Disorders Explained

Eating is a complicated part of life. It’s affected by all sorts of things like our genes, the way we were raised, our mental health, imagery in the media, biological changes, hormones, injuries, pain, friendships and the diet industry. This is why we see so many different types of eating disorders!

There are 5 types of eating disorders recognised as medical diagnoses by the medical profession. We’ve also included an additional 8 types of eating disorders that are becoming increasingly common.


. The main characteristic of an ED is that they cause some type of harmful food centred behaviour. Behaviours vary, but most often include food-restriction or excessive eating. Eating disorders can lead to harmful physical, social and emotional effects

The 12 Types of Eating Disorders

1. Anorexia Nervosa

Experts consider anorexia nervosa to be the most deadly of all mental illnesses because it has the highest mortality rate. For this reason, we can consider it to be the most severe of the 12 types of eating disorders. This condition involves severe food-restriction and sometimes extreme exercising and other purging behaviours. The individual will typically show these signs and symptoms:

Intense fear of gaining weight, even small amounts are intolerable.

Losing weight rapidly and consistently staying underweight. Their skinny appearance can be alarming for friends and family.

Refusal to acknowledge that such a low body weight can have harmful health consequences.

Amenorrhea: this is a term for when women stop menstruating due to low fat content.

Heart damage: anorexia stresses the cardiovascular system and can lead to a variety of life threatening heart conditions.

2. Bulimia Nervosa

This condition, bulimia nervosa, occurs when someone is repeatedly binging on large amounts of food and then purging it. Purging behaviours include forcing oneself to be sick, over-exercising,or using diet pills and laxatives. Both binging and purging behaviours are dangerous, and together they can quickly lead to dangerous physical symptoms.

3. Muscle Dysmorphia

Unlike most types of eating disorders, muscle dysmorphia tends to affect more men than women. The disorder is characterised by a disruptive obsession with musculature and physique. The individual will fixate on obtaining the ‘perfect’ form of musculature.

4. Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

BED is characterised by episodes of binging on large amounts of food. A binge describes when someone consumes an excessive amount of food within a period of a few hours. Binges are accompanied by a trance like state, feeling guilty and ashamed afterwards, and weight gain. Unlike bulimia, BED does not usually include any purging behaviours. Typically, those affected by BED are overweight or obese because of the binging.

5. Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

OSFED is a “catch all” for types of eating disorders that don’t fit into the above categories. Doctors and psychologists will often diagnose those with atypical anorexia or bulimia, as well as the following 7 unofficial diagnoses, with OSFED


These disorders are not included in any diagnostic manual, but doctors and psychologists still use these terms. Practitioners often group people with these conditions into OSFED, other specified feeding or eating disorder, as the official diagnosis. However, these terms are more specific and can help us communicate more clearly.

6. Compulsive Over Eating (COE)

This disorder is similar to binge eating disorder. What makes COE unique is that the individual doesn’t binge in spurts, but rather eats large amounts of food all day long.

7. Prader Willi Syndrome

This syndrome, which leads to compulsive eating and obesity, is caused by an inherited genetic disease. It begins with weak muscles, poor feeding, and slow development in babies. Then, in childhood the disease causes insatiable hunger. Children with Prader Willi syndrome often develop diabetes and struggle to adapt to a normal lifestyle

8. Diabulimia

This occurs when someone who is diabetic uses their prescription insulin to try to induce weight loss.

9. Orthorexia Nervosa (a term coined by the writer and medical doctor, Steven Bratman)

We are all under pressure to eat healthier for various reasons. In the case of orthorexia nervosa, someone becomes so obsessed with planning the perfect diet that this seriously disrupts their life.

10. Selective Eating Disorder

This eating disorder is a bit like picky eating, but at an extreme, debilitating level. An individual is so selective about their food, usually sticking to very specific foods and meals, that they become very ill and malnourished.

11. Drunkorexia

With a slightly crass sounding name, this term describes an eating disorder that is accompanied by alcoholism as well. The drunkorexic individual restricts food and purges in order to “save calories” for drinking alcohol. Severe malnutrition can develop when drunkorexia goes untreated.

12. Pregorexia

Since it is fairly common knowledge that pregnancy leads to weight gain and other bodily changes, women go into pregnancy with a weight loss plan. Sometimes, the weight loss plan can be too extreme and can endanger both mom and baby. Pregorexia can lead to: low birth weight, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cardiovascular disease risk, and depression. Many women also breast feed their baby for longer than is necessary, to ‘use up their calories’

If you or someone you love seems to be struggling with one of these eating disorders, reach out for help, seek support and have faith that recovery is possible.