There are three common types of disordered eating: anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder. All three types of disorders have different symptoms and behaviors that lead to significant distress. Whether a person’s disordered eating has led to a full-blown eating disorder diagnosis or is just below the threshold for an ED diagnosis, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Binge Eating / Anorexia Nervosa
Individuals with binge eating disorder have frequent episodes of overeating that result in feelings of shame and guilt. They also feel out of control when they binge and may use compensatory behaviors like purging, fasting, or excessive exercise in an attempt to stop the binge and gain back control.
The most commonly diagnosed form of disordered eating, anorexia nervosa is typically treated with medical and psychiatric support. It’s often associated with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. It’s most common among females, but males can suffer from it as well.
It’s not uncommon for individuals with eating disorders to also struggle with other issues such as substance abuse, mental health conditions, or emotional eating. It’s important to recognize the connection between these conditions and the disordered eating, as combining them can make the situation much worse.
Anxiety and Body Dissatisfaction
Aside from a strict diet, people with eating disorders may also have a deep-seated fear of their weight or shape. They may engage in unhealthy coping strategies, such as wearing baggy clothes, body-checking in mirrors, and weighing themselves. Alternatively, they may avoid social situations in order to avoid feeling shame or embarrassment.
Other Disordered Eating Behaviors
There are a number of other less recognizable but potentially more dangerous forms of disordered eating. These may include a lack of interest in food, an avoidance of the physical experience of eating or a dislike for the texture, taste or appearance of foods.
These more subtle signs are more common than they seem, and can easily go undetected by friends or family members. They can be particularly troublesome in young children and teens, who are often oblivious to their own emotional state.
Anxiety and Body Dissatisfaction
One of the most common risk factors for developing an eating disorder is body dissatisfaction, which can stem from a variety of issues including relationship patterns, PTSD, cultural and social stressors, and intrapersonal concerns. These can be highly adaptive coping mechanisms, but when they are persistent and interfere with daily activities and enjoyment of life, it’s a sign that it might be time to consider seeking professional help.
Strict Diets and Overeating
Restricting calorie intake or denying oneself foods they enjoy is another form of disordered eating. This can be done for a variety of reasons, from weight control to obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
It’s especially dangerous for young children, who are often oblivious to what they are doing to themselves and to others. Having an eating disorder at this age can lead to lifelong health complications, as well as a negative impact on their self-esteem and body image.