A reported 10 million women and 1 million men struggle with eating disorders according to the National Eating Disorder Foundation estimates. It is common that these disorders negatively impact a person's mental or physical health, but the cause of many eating disorders is not clear. In some instances, biological and environmental components may play a part. Below we'll review some of the most common eating disorders, how to treat them, and what treatments can be the most effective in addressing them.
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Eating disorders are severe, life-threatening mental illnesses that can be treated. They have grievous physical consequences and symptoms, and they affect people of all ages, sizes, sexes, genders, religions, classes, and ethnicities. According to NEDA, it’s estimated that over 30 million people in the United States alone will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. There are many kinds of eating disorders, and it’s important to become educated about them if you are living with one, if you are at risk for an eating disorder, or if you know someone that has an eating disorder. You may be experiencing symptoms of more than one eating disorder. Read about some of the different types of eating disorders and gain information on what you may be struggling with so you can get the help you need.
Anorexia Nervosa, like all eating disorders, can affect anyone. The age of onset can occur at any point in a person’s life, and it is one of the most deadly psychiatric illnesses. Symptoms of Anorexia include food restriction, weight loss, excessive or compulsive exercise, and hiding or hoarding food. A person does not need to be thin to develop or have anorexia nervosa: it is a mental illness that does not discriminate. Another potential diagnosis is Atypical Anorexia Nervosa. This disorder is characterized by average or above average weight, while meeting the other criteria of Anorexia Nervosa.
Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a cycle of binging and purging. A person with bulimia compulsively eats, often without enjoying or even tasting the food, and purges through vomiting, exercise, laxative abuse, denying oneself of insulin, and so on. With both anorexia and bulimia, you might see physical symptoms such as brittle nails and thinning hair. Mental health symptoms can include mood swings, secretive behavior, becoming socially withdrawn or isolated.
ARFID, which stands for Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, is characterized by inadequate nutritional intake due to highly selective and restrictive food choices. It can be due to a lack of interest in eating food, sensory issues with some foods, or the fear of eating some foods. The condition is most often seen in children, but can persist into adult years and can present at any age. Failure to meet energy needs due to ARFID can result in severe medical consequences.
BED or Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating that happen at least once a week and last for three months or more. These episodes co-occur with a feeling of being unable to control or stop the episode. Warning signs and symptoms of BED include but are not limited to frequent dieting, secretive behavior, cutting out food groups, feelings of depression, feelings of being out of control, and social isolation.
There are other existing forms of eating disorders, and all of them are serious. It is possible to recover from an eating disorder with a stable support system and a treatment plan. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, it is essential to seek treatment through counseling, talking to a doctor, or attending inpatient or outpatient treatment. If you believe that you are living with an eating disorder, it’s essential to consult a mental health professional.
After reading about the different types of eating disorders, you may be concerned that you have one of these conditions. If that’s the case, you can get help. If you believe that you might have an eating disorder, talk to an online therapist or counselor today. You don’t have to navigate these symptoms alone. There are mental health professionals who are ready to help you heal. Many of the counselors at BetterHelp understand eating disorders and can guide you on the path to recovery. You might be afraid to seek help, but remember that it’s natural to fear change. There’s hope for a better life when you recognize the issues you’re coping with, and start to address them in therapy. Search the network of online counselors and therapists at BetterHelp and find someone that specializes in eating disorders so that they can give you the support that you need and deserve.