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What Are the Different Kinds of Eating Disorders? in Mind

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Eating disorders can present themselves in various ways. We outline the facts about some of the most common eating disorders and the behaviours they may result in.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is when somebody cuts down on the amount and type of food they eat, and can also include excessive exercise. When someone is anorexic they may:

  • have obsessive behaviour or rituals around food (counting every calorie; only eating certain foods)
  • lie about eating, or miss meals
  • cook or prepare food for everyone else and not have any themselves
  • excessively exercise
  • take appetite suppressants, laxatives or diuretics (medication that helps remove fluid from the body)
  • weigh themselves constantly
  • take to wearing baggy clothing to hide how thin they are
  • withdraw from friends, family and activities they used to enjoy

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa includes binging on a large amount of food, before trying getting rid of it by vomiting, taking laxatives, or compensating by avoiding food for the next few days. When someone is bulimic they may:

  • eat large quantities of food
  • vomit after meals or binges
  • take laxatives or diet pills
  • worry about weight gain due to binging
  • be secretive and lie about their eating habits
  • feel guilty or ashamed about their behaviour

Binge eating

Binge eating involves eating a large amount of food in a small time. Most people may eat quite a lot in a short time occasionally, but when someone has a Binge Eating Disorder they may:

  • eat much more quickly during binges
  • eat large amounts of food when they aren’t hungry 
  • eat until they are uncomfortably full
  • eat alone or secretly due to be embarrassed about the amount they are eating 
  • feel depressed because they can’t control their eating

EDNOS 

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) is the term used to take into account that eating disorders are very complicated, and some people may fit into a few, but not all of the symptoms in the disorders listed above. People who have an EDNOS may:

  • fit the criteria for anorexia nervosa, except their weight is within the normal range
  • fit the criteria for bulimia nervosa except binges occur at a frequency of less than twice a week or a duration of less than three months
  • have a normal body weight, but try to get rid of relatively small amounts of food (i.e. throwing up after eating a couple of biscuits)
  • Chew up and spit out (but never swallow) small amounts of food

Find out more about the causes of eating disorders

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of an eating disorder you can get help from your GP or you can talk to a number of different organisations including ChildLineMen Get Eating Disorders Too and Get Connected.

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