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Types of Eating Disorders and How to Identify Them

Eating disorder simply put is the abnormal eating habits of an individual. It can affect just about anyone, but most of the reported cases happened to teenagers, especially teenage girls. In a study, it was shown that a staggering 13% of young girls had gone through at least one type of eating disorder by the time they were 20 years old.

Many see having an eating disorder as a phase, where the affected becomes particularly concerned about his or her physical image, or where the affected develops an obsession with food. However, eating disorder is more than that. Well, the good news is, those with eating disorders have a high recovery rate. After following a group of people with eating disorder for 20 years, Harvard psychologist found that two-thirds of them are free from the illness. Same as other illnesses, the key to recovery is always recognizing and understanding the problems, so let’s take a look at some of the most common types of eating disorders and their symptoms.

This is one of the most common and known eating disorder and typically affects young teenage girls. People with anorexia see themselves as being fat, despite they are already dangerously underweight, they seem to always find some fat to pinch. To achieve the weight deemed ideal by them, they will take food restriction to the extreme, carefully calculating calories and avoiding certain types of food. Symptoms associated with anorexia include:

  • Sudden severe weight loss (even if body weight is still normal)
  • Noticeably underweight compared to people around the same age and height
  • Constant and overpowering fear of gaining weight
  • Obsessed with weight, calories, and dieting
  • Self-confidence relies heavily on body weight and perceived thinness
  • Restricted eating habits (such as pursuing a no-carb diet)
  • Exercise vigorously to lose weight
  • Refuse to believe being dangerously underweight

Anorexic practices like mentioned above can often bring physical health issues too. A person suffering from anorexia might eventually experience sleep disturbances, fatigue, abnormal menstrual cycle, and fragile bones, hair, and nails. Some may even develop lanugo, which is a layer of fine hair covering the entire body, as anorexia sufferers often feel cold as a result of all the weight loss.

Bulimia is also a condition that surfaces mostly during teenage years and is more prominent in women than in men. People suffering from bulimia often succumbs to binge-eating, where they will chow down a huge amount of food in a short period of time. Foods that bulimia sufferers tend to binge-eat are normally the foods they usually try to stay clear of. They will then realize the guilt and try to purge whatever they had been eating before. Unlike anorexia, bulimia sufferers usually weight normally, rather than being underweight. Signs of bulimia include:

  • Feeling uncontrollable during binge-eating spells
  • Recurring occurrence of binge-eating and purging afterward
  • Using purging methods such as vomiting, using laxatives, fasting, and doing vigorous exercises
  • Self-confidence depends heavily on body weight
  • Constant worries of gaining weight

As a result of all the binge-and-purge episodes, bulimia can result in several health issues as well. Bulimia sufferers might experience fluctuations in weight, acid reflux, tooth decay, and hormonal imbalances. Some health hazards of bulimia are the same with anorexia, for instance, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and fragile bones, hair and nails.

Binge eating disorder is only recently recognized as an eating disorder and is actually the most common eating disorder in the US. As the name suggests, we will know that BED is very similar to bulimia. The main difference is that BED sufferers do not restrict their food intake and do not engage in purging their food out or doing excessive workouts. BED sufferers will show symptoms like:

  • Gulping down huge amount of food rapidly in a short period of time
  • Binge-eating secretly without people knowing in fear of embarrassment
  • Uncontrollable binge eating
  • Feel guilty, shame, depressed, and disgusted after binge-eating
  • Do not involve use of laxatives, vomiting, and excessive exercise to make up for the huge food consumption

There are various health issues related to BED. For example, as BED sufferers are often obese or overweight, they face the relating risks such as developing heart-related ailments, stroke, and diabetes.

ARFID is previously known as selective eating disorder. Different than the previous three disorders we discussed, ARFID typically emerges during childhood and can continue on to adulthood. In addition, men and women are both equally at risk of developing ARFID. Similar to anorexia, individuals with ARFID are selective towards the food they eat. They are not just your usual picky eaters, as they are so selective and restrictive of their food intake until they are deprived of certain nutrients. The difference between ARFID and anorexia is that ARFID sufferers are not concerned about body image, they just simply do not fancy certain foods. ARFID is characterized by symptoms like:

  • Weight loss or distorted physical development due to calories and nutrient deficiency
  • Dependent on supplements to compensate for the lack of nutrients
  • Interrupted social functions such as eating with other people
  • Variety of preferred food is constricted

When the body lacks calories and nutrients, it is a surefire way to cause the body to react unfavorably. Health issues that stem from ARFID include heart failure, stomach problems, and hormonal imbalances.

Unlike illnesses like a cold, which you know you will most likely get if you have been in the rain, there is no direct cause and effect in the case of eating disorders. This is why this article is meant for you to understand and be able to differentiate between several common types of eating disorders, and take actions accordingly.

Gentle reminder: The information on this article is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare professional and should not be considered as professional advice. Please seek appropriate medical help when necessary.


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