What are the different types of eating disorders?
The different types of eating disorders can be hard to identify, especially in today’s culture when disordered eating behaviors are extremely common and are promoted as a “healthy” way of living. From food fads to diets to excessive exercise, it can be difficult to navigate whether these disordered behaviors have led to a downward spiral into a full-blown eating disorder. Whether you or a loved one is struggling with disordered eating OR has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, it is important to work with a health professional to reduce the behaviors and address the thoughts underneath.
What Is Disordered Eating?
Disordered eating is a term used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviors someone might engage in, usually for the purpose of weight loss, health promotion, or increased body satisfaction. Some examples of disordered eating behaviors include: skipping meals, dieting, food measuring, restricting food groups, laxative/diuretic use, supplement misuse, and rigid rituals around food and exercise.
How is disordered eating different from an eating disorder?
Disordered eating behaviors are problematic, however may not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder. Many times people call our office asking us whether or not a person may be suffering from eating disorders. We have found the best way to determine if someone is suffering is to have them come into the office for a screening to determine the complexity and severity of symptoms. That being said, if disordered eating is not addressed, it can lead to the development of a diagnosed eating disorder.
If you have noticed you or your loved one engaging in some disordered eating behaviors, it might be helpful to get some background information about the different types of eating disorders to help you move forward.
ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)
ARFID, previously referred to as “Selective Eating Disorder”, is a feeding disorder that goes beyond picky eating. ARFID is characterized by such selective eating that there may be 10-20 acceptable foods in the person’s diet. ARFID can affect those of all ages and people of all genders. It may cause significant weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, reliance on enteral feeding, and can affect cognitive function. The restrictive nature of ARFID is not due to concern about weight gain, desire for weight loss, or negative body image. Our dietitians can help to start increasing acceptable foods in order to get a more varied, balanced diet.
Binge Eating Disorder
Did you know that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is actually the most prevalent eating disorder? Binge eating can affect people of all ages, sizes, and genders. BED usually involves frequent episodes of eating large portions of food rapidly followed by feeling out of control, guilty, or overly full. Individuals with BED might struggle with negative emotions and feelings, relying on food to cope.
We know it can be hard to seek treatment for binge eating but it is possible to reduce and stop binge eating. We can help you feel safe and comfortable eating a variety of foods.
Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental health illnesses. It is very important that you have a team of health professionals to ensure the safest, most efficient treatment. Anorexia can occur in any body size and at any age. As a team, we will work together to decrease the stress around eating meals and achieve the ability to nourish your body in order to have more energy, more focus, better concentration, to have fewer thoughts about food. If anorexia has affected your menstrual cycle we can help make recommendations to regain your cycle. Anorexia can take so much away from the joy of life, we can help you reclaim it!
Bulimia Nervosa can include restriction as well as binge eating along with a component of purging calories through exercise or other means. The methods of purging can cause immediate heart risk to the patient and require an experienced team including a dietitian, therapist, psychiatrist, a medical doctor, and the patient. Our dietitians can help you to reduce and eliminate behaviors and nourish yourself with a variety of foods.
Orthorexia is the term used when “healthy” eating goes too far. This might also be putting too much focus on nutrition to solve a medical diagnosis or symptom that starts whittling away at food groups or the variety of foods/nutrients eaten. Some common symptoms include fixation over the quality of food, food rules, removing food groups, labeling foods as “good” vs “bad”. This can lead to malnutrition and affect physical and mental health as well as become isolating to the person that becomes rigid around what food they will or will not eat.
What should I do if I think I have one of the different types of eating disorders?
If you are thinking that you or a loved one might have signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, here are 3 things you should do to get started on your recovery journey.
1. Find a treatment team
A treatment team is a group of professionals trained to help support you on your recovery journey. This includes a dietitian, a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a medical doctor. When looking for a dietitian and therapist, make sure to find those who are trained and knowledgeable in the treatment of eating disorders.
Often, early symptoms are fairly easy to hide from health professionals who are not trained in these disorders, which is why you want to find an eating disorder dietitian, like the dietitians in our office. We help evaluate you or your loved one’s symptoms and educate you both on the appropriate treatment. We can also help you put together a treatment team if needed!
2. Get a medical workup by your doctor
Eating disorders can lead to some serious medical complications, so it is important to have an evaluation done by your doctor. This can include getting lab work, scans, and taking vitals, such as weight and blood pressure. Your dietitian can provide a list of lab values for your doctor to run.
3. Find support
This step is crucial! Your treatment team is there to support you through your recovery journey, but you also want to have other people in your corner along the way. This might mean sharing parts of your recovery journey with trusted friends and family or could look like finding a support group to help with your accountability.
There are also support groups for caregivers and loved ones of those with eating disorders.
No matter where you are at in your recovery journey, we are here to help you. Always remember that you deserve a life without an eating disorder.
Looking for more?
If you haven’t already, take a look at these blogs to learn more about Eating Disorders and treatment for them.
Meagan is passionate about working with clients who struggle with disordered eating and eating disorders and sees clients of all ages. She is determined to help others live a life that is free of dieting, food-rules and restrictions, and tune into their body’s internal cues to best enhance their health and well-being.