Mental Health

What is an Eating Disorder? Types, Symptoms, Treatment and diagnosis methods.

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are a type of severe mental health issue that may be caused by eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Typically, people with eating disabilities develop an unhealthy preoccupation with food and body size, weight, or body shape. However, “eating disorders” represent a group of complex mental health issues that can seriously harm health and social functioning.

Types of eating disorders

However, there are different eating disorders, and they all come with their defining characteristics and diagnosis criteria. Finally, some types of eating disorders may include:-

Binge eating disorder (BED)

BED, the most recently recognized eating disorder, is the most common. BED is found at higher rates among people of larger body sizes. However, weight stigma is commonly confounding in developing and treating binge eating disorders.

Bulimia Nervosa (BN)

It may involve recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors. However, these behaviors may be designed to compensate for consumed calories. However, these behaviors may contain vomiting, fasting, exercise, and laxative use.

Anorexia Nervosa (AN)

It may be characterized by restricted food intake, which leads to a lower than expected body weight, fear of weight gain, and disturbance in the body image. Most people are unaware that anorexia nervosa can also be diagnosed in individuals with larger bodies.

Orthorexia Nervosa (ON)

It is not an official eating disorder in the DSM-5, though it has attracted a great deal of recent attention as a proposed diagnosis for future editions. It may be because the unhealthy obsession does not typically come from a desire to lose weight. Similarly, it is an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating and involves adhering to a theory of healthy eating to the point that one experiences health, social, and occupational consequences.

Other eating disorders:-

  • Night eating syndrome
  • Pica
  • Purging disorder
  • Rumination disorder etc.

Significant symptoms of eating disorders

Although, possible symptoms of different eating disorders may include:-

  • Dietary restriction
  • Some changes in body weight or being significantly underweight
  • Negative body image
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Presence of excessive exercise
  • Presence of laxative or diuretic use etc.

Mental effects

These disorders may occur along with other mental disorders, most often anxiety disorders, that may include:-

  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

Anxiety disorder problems may usually predate the onset of an eating disorder. Often, many people with eating disorders also experience depression and score high on measures of perfectionism.

Physical effects

However, eating disorders may affect every part of the body and can lead to physical health problems like:-

  • Brain mass loss
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Gastrointestinal problems (for instance, chronic constipation, gastroesophageal reflux)
  • Dental problems
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Hair loss problems
  • Irregularity in menstrual periods
  • Weakened bones etc.

Treatment methods

  • Self-help
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Family-based treatment (FBT)
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Weekly outpatient treatment
  • Intensive treatment etc.


However, these disorders can be diagnosed by medical physicians or mental health consultants, including psychiatrists and psychologists. Often, these health professionals diagnose an eating disorder after noticing symptoms during a regular check-up or after a parent or family member expresses concern over their loved one’s behavior.

Although there is no one laboratory test to screen for eating disorders, your health consultant can use a variety of physical and psychological evaluations to determine your diagnosis, including:-

  • Firstly, physical tests, your professionals will check your height, weight, and vital signs.
  • Secondly, lab tests include a complete blood count, liver, kidney, and thyroid function tests, X-rays, and electrocardiograms.
  • Psychological tests include personal questions about your eating, binging, and exercise habits.