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What are different types of eating disorders?

The different types of eating disorder diagnoses include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Pica disorder
  • Rumination disorder
  • Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder
  • Other specified eating disorder
  • Unspecified eating disorder

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa, often simply called anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of one’s body weight. A diagnosis of anorexia is based on the following:

  • Restriction of food intake relative to a person’s requirements, leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, growth development, and physical health. “Significantly low weight” is defined as a weight that is less than minimally normal, or for children and adolescents, less than what is minimally expected.
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain, even though the person is underweight.
  • Distorted view of one’s body weight or shape, undue influence of one’s body weight or shape on self-worth, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of one’s current low body weight.

The diagnosis of anorexia has two subtypes that may be specified. These include:

  1. Restricting type – During the last 3 months, the individual has not engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging behavior. Instead, the person achieves weight loss primarily through dieting, fasting, and/or excessive exercise.
  2. Binge-eating/purging type – During the last 3 months, the individual has engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas).

The most common ages of onset of anorexia are the mid-teens, between 14 and 18 years. However, up to 5 percent of patients have the onset of the disorder in their early 20s. Anorexia is estimated to occur in about 0.5 to 1 percent of adolescent girls. It occurs 10 to 20 times more often in females than in males.


What is Anorexia?

Psychological Factors

Anorexia appears to be a way for adolescents to express a form of autonomy. Many adolescents with anorexia experience their bodies as somehow under the control of their parents, so that self-starvation may be an effort to gain validation as a unique and independent person. Only through acts of extraordinary self-discipline can an anorectic patient develop a sense of autonomy and selfhood. Psychotherapists who treat patients with anorexia generally agree that these young patients have been unable to separate psychologically from their mothers. The body may be perceived as though it were controlled by an intrusive and unempathetic mother. Starvation may unconsciously mean rebelling from this controlling presence.

Individuals with anorexia have high rates of major depressive disorders. The suicide rate is higher in patients with the binge eating-purging type of anorexia than in the restricting type. Patients with anorexia are often secretive, deny their symptoms, and resist treatment. In almost all cases, relatives or intimate friends must confirm a patient’s history.

What are treatments for Anorexia?

Because of the complicated psychological and medical implications of anorexia, a comprehensive treatment plan, including hospitalization when necessary, is recommended. Both individual and family therapy are recommended. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proved effective for inducing weight gain. In many cases, medication may be needed. Participation in support groups, such as those provided by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, may also be helpful.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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