Types of Eating Disorders

Types of Eating Disorders

There are currently a number of classified forms of eating disorder as listed here, each with its own distinctive behaviours but often sharing common factors both externally and internally.

Anorexia Nervosa, which is often referred to simply as 'anorexia' is one of the most common and recognisable types of eating disorder.

Symptoms

The DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 5) (APA, 2013), the reference manual used to classify mental health disorders by the American Psychiatric Association defines the symptoms of anorexia as:

  • Refusal to gain or maintain weight leading to body weight at less than 85% of expected weight for age and height
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat even though body weight less than normal
  • Undue influence of bodyweight or shape on evaluation of self or denial of the seriousness of current low bodyweight
  • Erectile dysfunction and/or decreased sex-drive for adult males OR the absence of 3 consecutive menstrual periods for adult females

Recognise the symptoms

Common recognisable symptoms of Anorexia include:

  • Preoccupation with body image including weight and/or shape
  • Low weight
  • Refusal to eat/low food intake
  • Denial of obvious weight-loss and eating related issues
  • Wearing baggy clothes to mask weight loss
  • Obsessive thoughts around food and eating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Desire to be isolated from social interaction
  • Depressive or suicidal thoughts
  • Aggressive or irritable behaviour

How is it treated?

As anorexia effects the individual both psychically and psychologically those living with the disorder are usually treated for the psychical symptoms first as this ensures they are healthy enough to take part in therapy to treat the psychological aspects of the disorder.

Physical Treatment

The physical symptom of Anorexia such as emaciation and other related issues can be treated at a local healthcare facility such as a hospital. This aims to preserve the physical health of the individual in order to allow them to participate in psychological therapy aimed at managing the thought processes that lead to and continue the cycle of an eating disorder.

Psychological Treatment

Psychological treatment for the underlying thought processes associated with Anorexia can be treated using psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Family Therapy.

Specialist Services

For some people who may experience more severe symptoms of anorexia or may not respond to other treatments, there are specialist facilities available on the mainland UK who provide intensive, 24 hour care and treatment with the aim of curing the symptoms of many forms of Eating Disorder.

As with all eating disorders, the first point of contact if you think you or someone close to you may be suffering from anorexia is your local GP.

For more information on where to go to get help please see our Getting Help section.

Binge Eating Disorder, known as BED, as its name suggests involves the individual consuming large quantities of food in a short space of time, in a similar way to that described with Bulimia. However, unlike individuals who suffer from Bulimia, the suffer does not purge after bingeing.

Symptoms

Binge eating disorder is thought to affect more people than Anorexia and Bulimia and is recognisable by some of the following symptoms:

  • Eating large quantities of food in a short space of time
  • Constant thoughts around food
  • Feeling out of control when eating
  • Feeling shame and guilt after bingeing
  • Wanting to eat alone due to shame
  • Consuming enough food to make the individual feel sick
  • Wanting to eat, even when not hungry

How is it treated?

Binge Eating Disorder can be treated with psychological therapy such as CBT which can help to reduce the need to engage in binge eating behaviour and give the sufferer the tools to prevent themselves from relapsing back into the cycle of binge-eating.

As with all eating disorders, the first point of contact if you think you or someone close to you may be suffering from binge-eating disorder is your local GP.

For more information on where to go to get help please see our Getting Help section.

Bulimia Nervosa, which is often referred to simply as 'bulimia' is another of the more common and recognisable types of eating disorder.

Symptoms

The DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 5) (APA, 2013), the reference manual used to classify mental health disorders by the American Psychiatric Association defines the symptoms of bulimia as:

  1.  Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by both of the following:
    • Eating in a discrete period of time (e.g.: within a 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
    • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
  2. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviour in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications; fasting or excessive exercise
  3. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviours both occur, on average at least twice a week for 3 months
  4. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight
  5. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa Specify purging or non-purging subtype

Recognise the symptoms

Common recognisable symptoms of Bulimia include:

  • Preoccupation with body image including weight and/or shape
  • Consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Frequently going to the bathroom during or between meals
  • Losing weight or maintaining a normal weight despite consuming large quantities of food
  • Wearing baggy clothes to mask weight change
  • Obsessive thoughts around food and eating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Bad breath due to regular vomiting
  • Depressive or suicidal thoughts
  • Aggressive or irritable behaviour

How is it treated?

As bulimia effects the individual both psychically and psychologically those living with the disorder are usually treated for the psychical symptoms first as this ensures they are healthy enough to take part in therapy to treat the psychological aspects of the disorder.

Psychological Treatment

Psychological treatment for the underlying thought processes associated with Bulimia is often treated using psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Family Therapy. CBT focuses on breaking the cycle of eating and purging before helping the sufferer to deal with the underlying thought processes which cause it.

As with all eating disorders, the first point of contact if you think you or someone close to you may be suffering from bulimia is your local GP.

For more information on where to go to get help please see our Getting Help section.

It is often the case that people living with eating disorders can change their behaviour and symptoms to cross from one classification to another, for example, someone who has been bingeing and vomiting, typically associated with bulimia can begin to restrict the amount they eat or purge so regularly that their body retains little or no nutrients, causing them to rapidly lose weight more typical of anorexia.

While some people may cross various types of eating disorder, others may never fit neatly into any classification at all. Those in this category are usually diagnosed as having an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). People with EDNOS type disorders may show no clear pattern of eating behaviour but may still have obsessive thoughts about food and engage in behaviour which is detrimental to their health coupled with other psychological symptoms such as low self-esteem and depressive type thoughts.

Muscle dysmorphia is a condition whereby the sufferer is preoccupied with thoughts of wanting to look more muscular and in a similar way to anorexia, perceives themselves to be skinny, regardless of their actual physical size. This has led to the condition being dubbed 'Bigorexia' or 'Reverse-Anorexia', a reference to its being the opposite of anorexia in a sense. (Morgan, 2008)

Symptoms

Common recognisable symptoms of Muscle Dysmorphia include:

  • Preoccupation with body image in particular the wish to look muscular
  • Intense fear of losing weight and 'withering away'
  • Excessive exercise with the aim of 'bulking-up'
  • Planning and often neglecting other life activities around exercise
  • Adhering to unconventional diets to help achieve the 'ideal' body shape
  • Use of steroids or dietary supplements aimed at increasing muscle mass
  • Avoidance of situations where the individual's body could be exposed due to feelings of inadequacy

How is it treated?

Muscle dysmorphia shares many similarities with eating disorders, as well as OCD and can therefore be treated in a similar way including psychotherapy such as CBT and other psychotherapies.

As with all eating disorders, the first point of contact if you think you or someone close to you may be suffering from muscle dysmorphia is your local GP.

For more information on where to go to get help please see our Getting Help section.

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