In the first place, if you are struggling with an eating disorder or you know someone who is, don’t hesitate to look for professional support.
Contacting a GP or talking to a professional will help you take the next steps towards your healing.
What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a serious mental health condition that can affect anyone, no matter what their gender, age, or background. People with an eating disorder use eating behaviours to cope with feelings or difficult situations.
Some behaviours might look like these; eating very small amounts of food or refusing to eat, eating very large amounts of food at once, getting rid of food eaten through unhealthy ways (e.g. making themselves sick, misusing laxatives or excessive exercise), or a combination of these behaviours.
Types of eating disorders
This is the most well-known eating disorder. People who suffer anorexia tend to constantly lose weight, seeing themselves as overweight even when they’re extremely underweight. They restrict calories and types of food eaten, monitor their weight and sometimes exercise compulsively, misuse laxatives, force themselves to vomit, and binge eat.
People with bulimia tend to eat very large amounts of food at once or at a specific period of time. Usually, they will eat without any control until they feel really full. To compensate the amount of calories eaten, they purge via vomiting, fasting, laxatives and excessive exercise.
People who experience bulimia usually don’t become underweight.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
This is similar to Bulimia Nervosa. People who suffer from BED also tend to eat large amounts of food with a lack of control. They will experience shame or guilt afterwards, compensating it with unhealthy measures.
The main difference between Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia is that people who suffer from BED will not force themselves to purge what they have just eaten, while individuals who suffer Bulimia Nervosa will empty their stomachs immediately after eating.
Individuals who experience this eating disorder eat non-food substances, such as dirt, ice, soil, paper, hair, wool, corn-starch, fabric, detergent, etc.
Those who suffer from pica may be at risk of poisoning, infections, injuries, and nutritional deficiencies. Depending on the substances eaten it can cause death.
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
ARFID is similar to Anorexia Nervosa in the sense that both disorders involve the reduction of food intake. Unlikely Anorexia, ARFID doesn’t include any type of body shame, discomfort, or a fear of weight gain.
A person that experiences ARFID will not consume enough calories to maintain a healthy body function.
It’s an eating disorder where an individual regurgitates food. Regurgitated food may be re-chewed, re-swallowed or spit out. Adults who experience this will restrict the amount they eat. This disorder may lead them to lose weight or become underweight.
Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED)
Applies to those whose symptoms are of an eating disorder, but do not meet the criteria for any of the eating or feeding disorders.
Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED)
It used to be known as EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). It’s diagnosed to those who have symptoms similar to those of an eating disorder but don’t fit into any of them.
If you are supporting someone with an eating disorder here are some tips that may help you support them best – How to help someone with an eating disorder.