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The Transition House, Inc.

6 Types of Eating Disorders

Woman about to take a bite of a sandwich

Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the world’s population. Although they are common, there are many ways to cope and treat an eating disorder. But what exactly qualifies an eating disorder? Why are there so many variations, and what is the difference between them?

An eating disorder is defined as a psychological condition that causes someone to develop unhealthy eating habits. Eating disorders come with a variety of symptoms, but most commonly, one is involved in unhealthy eating habits or has a negative outlook on their body image or weight. 

If you or someone close to you is experiencing one or a variety of symptoms associated with any of the following eating disorders, it’s important to get in contact with a licensed doctor or therapist to get help.

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, more commonly referred to as “anorexia,” is probably what most people think of when they think of eating disorders. Those affected by anorexia usually see themselves as overweight when they are unhealthily and sometimes dangerously underweight. 

Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Being considerably underweight for someone’s age and height
  • Extremely restrictive eating patterns
  • Intense fears of gaining weight, despite being underweight

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, more commonly referred to as “bulimia,” is an eating disorder in which one frequently eats a large amount of food in a short time and then purges shortly after. Those affected by bulimia tend to purge to “compensate” for ingested calories or relieve a feeling of discomfort. 

Symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating
  • Recurrent episodes of purging behaviors to prevent weight gain
  • Intense fears of gaining weight despite having a normal weight

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Symptoms of binge eating disorder are similar to those of anorexia or bulimia but have important differences. Typically, those affected by binge eating disorder do not partake in purging behaviors or otherwise compensate for their binging. 

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating large amounts of food quickly and in secret despite not being hungry
  • Feeling a lack of self-control during episodes 
  • Feeling shame, disgust, or guilt after an episode 

Rumination disorder

Rumination disorder is a newly recognized eating disorder. Those affected by rumination disorder typically purge food after chewing and swallowing to either re-swallow or spit out. This action is voluntary and typically occurs within the first thirty minutes of finishing a meal. 


Pica is an eating disorder that involves someone eating things that aren’t considered food. This can include things such as dirt, chalk, soap, paper, hair, or even more dangerous items like laundry detergent or cornstarch. 

Avoidant food intake disorder

Avoidant food intake disorder affects individuals with disrupted eating experiences, such as a lack of interest in eating due to smells, textures, temperatures, etc. 

Symptoms of avoidant food intake disorder include:

  • Avoidance of food intake that inhibits sufficient caloric intake
  • Eating habits that interfere with normal social functions
  • Weight loss or poor development for age and height

Coping with an eating disorder

Eating disorders of any kind can be extremely damaging to one’s body if left untreated. It’s important that if you or someone close to you is experiencing symptoms of any of the six eating disorders listed to get in contact with a therapist or doctor immediately. However, like any other mental illness, there are coping mechanisms to help conquer your battle with an eating disorder available. 

  • Involve yourself in activities that interest you to help improve self-esteem
  • Create a list of positive affirmations to say out loud to yourself in the mirror
  • Take note of meal times and see if you notice a pattern in aversions to certain foods or conditions 
  • Write a list of all the things you can think about yourself (physical or emotional) that you love
  • Reach out to your support system

The bottom line is that eating disorders are important to treat early on. Although they are common, it’s crucial to get help from a counselor or doctor. Eating disorders are challenging but are something that you can overcome.

If you are interested in talking to someone about your eating disorder, learn more about our counseling centers here, or request an appointment below.


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