Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, genders, ethnicity, races, and socioeconomic statuses. Statistics indicate that eating disorders are more common among females. Although there is a common myth that only teenage girls are affected by eating disorders, that is not the case; males and older females experience disordered eating as well. Eating disorders can result in significant medical complications as well as emotional distress. These conditions can also cause impaired social functioning.

The Different Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders include:

Binge Eating Disorder

This is the most recently recognized eating disorder. It is also the most common type of eating disorder. In this eating disorder, the individual engages in repeated episodes of consuming large amounts of food.

Bulimia Nervosa

In this type of eating disorder, the individual typically engages in recurring episodes of binge eating. These episodes are followed by behaviors meant to compensate for overeating, such as fasting, vomiting, use of laxatives, and excessive exercise.

Anorexia Nervosa

This type of eating disorder is characterized by restricting the amount of food consumed. This results in a lower than normal body weight, disturbed body image, and a fear of gaining weight. Although this type of eating disorder is commonly associated with extremely thin people, it has also been diagnosed in people with larger body sizes.


In this type of eating disorder, the individual has a persistent craving for nonfood items, such as cloth, soap, dirt, or talcum powder. This occurs over a period of at least one month. Eating such items on a regular basis can result in a variety of medical complications, including infections, intestinal problems, and poisoning. Pica also sometimes occurs with intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder.

Rumination Disorder

Rumination disorder involves the repeated and persistent regurgitation of food. This is not due to another eating disorder or medical condition. Regurgitation occurs without gagging or nausea. This disorder can result in malnutrition, particularly if the person consumes less food to prevent the behavior from occurring or if he or she spits out the food.

Restrictive or Avoidant Food Intake Disorder

In this disorder, the individual fails to meet their minimum daily nutrition requirements due to a lack of interest in eating. He or she may avoid food that has certain sensory characteristics, such as texture, color, taste, or smell. Food is not usually avoided due to a fear of gaining weight. This disorder can cause significant weight loss as well as nutritional deficiencies.

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder

This catchall category includes a variety of eating problems that may result in serious impairment and distress but may not meet the criteria necessary for bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.

Eating Disorder Symptoms

It should be understood that symptoms of eating disorders may vary, but often include:

  • Dietary restriction
  • Frequent weight changes
  • Being significantly underweight
  • Exercising excessively
  • Binge eating
  • Use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Purging
  • Negative body image

In many instances, individuals with eating disorders do not believe they have an illness. When someone with an eating disorder denies being ill, it is known as anosognosia.

Co-existing Problems

Eating disorders frequently occur in addition to other types of mental disorders. These are usually anxiety disorders, such as:

  • Social phobia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder

The anxiety disorder is usually present prior to the eating disorder. It’s also common for someone with an eating disorder to experience problems with depression.

Contributing Factors

There is also some evidence that suggests that genetics and environment may play a role in the development of eating disorders. Certain events or situations may trigger or at least contribute to the development of an eating disorder in someone who is genetically predisposed to such disorders. Environmental factors that could contribute to the development of an eating disorder include:

  • Bullying
  • Weight stigma
  • Dieting
  • Illness
  • Abuse
  • Stress
  • Puberty
  • Life transitions

Due to the fact that it is necessary to eat in order to function properly, eating disorders can have a serious impact on mental and physical functions. An individual does not necessarily need to be underweight in order to experience issues related to an eating disorder. This is because an eating disorder can have an effect on every body system. For instance, bones may become weaker, which can result in issues that are irreversible. Dental problems may develop due to self-induced vomiting. Loss of brain mass may occur. Due to purging and restriction, cardiovascular problems may occur.

Getting Therapy or Counseling for Eating Disorders

The best outcomes in individuals with eating disorders are associated with early intervention. For this reason, it’s important for persons with eating disorders not to delay asking for help. Assistance is available in a variety of options, including the following:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Also known as CBT, this approach to therapy often involves self-monitoring, regular eating, meal planning, cognitive restructuring, food exposure, limiting body-checking, and relapse prevention.

Family-Based Treatment

This approach to therapy is often utilized in the treatment of children and adolescents who are struggling with eating disorders. The family often proves to be a critical part of the treatment approach. Parents may offer meal support, which makes it possible for the patient to recover in the comfort of a familiar home environment.

Weekly Outpatient Treatment

In this form of treatment, patients are offered assistance through a team that usually includes a medical doctor, dietitian, and therapist.

In some severe cases, intensive treatment may be necessary. This could include partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient care, or a hospital level of care. A multidisciplinary team is usually involved in this level of care.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help as quickly as possible from a therapist who is experienced in treating such conditions. It is possible to overcome an eating disorder and get healthy again with the right help.

If you find you relate to the information in this article and would like some help, please contact Rita with Sioux Falls Wellness Counseling at (605) 610-9228.