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Understanding the Different Types of Eating Disorders

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Eating disorders are complex psychiatric conditions. While they can be difficult to understand and diagnose, common eating disorder (ED) myths only make matters worse. Myths such as how everyone with an ED is skinny, or that having an ED means you don't eat.

But, these restrictive misconceptions fail to recognize that there are many types of eating disorders. All with their own individual food-related behaviors and underlying psychological factors.

Here are some of the most common types of eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia involves an extreme avoidance or restriction of food. Long-term anorexia can cause disappearing menstrual cycles and reduced testosterone levels. Many people with anorexia also have anemia, bone loss, kidney problems, and heart disease.

What's more, of all mental health conditions, anorexia is the most lethal, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death. Worrying statistics like these make it imperative for sufferers to seek anorexia recovery as soon as possible.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia involves periods of excessive eating followed by compensatory behaviors. These include induced vomiting, fasting, ingesting laxatives, and over-exercising. On average, this binge-purge cycle occurs at least once a week for three months.

Long-term bulimia can lead to laxative dependence, depression, heart problems, and irregular periods. Some research also places the mortality rate of bulimia as high as 3.9 percent. This makes bulimia recovery an urgent matter for health professionals and patients alike.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) involves excessive eating. This is often accompanied by feelings of shame and guilt at a supposed "lack of willpower."

In contrast to bulimia, BED doesn't come with the purging element. As such, many people with BED are obese or overweight. Long-term BED can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other conditions.


OSFED stands for Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. Symptoms can include aspects of bulimia and anorexia. But, these would not meet the criteria for an official diagnosis of either condition. Some examples of OSFED include purging disorder, intermittent bulimia, and night-eating syndrome.

Although OSFED is a catch-all term for many eating disorder behaviors, it is even more common than other EDs. Estimates show that as many as 60 percent of people seeking eating disorder recovery have OSFED.


Orthorexia is an abnormal fixation on healthy eating. It often starts as a genuine concern to maintain a healthy diet. But over time, this can lead to a preoccupation with nutrition, food quality, and quantity.

Orthorexia isn't a recognized ED. But, getting an eating disorder diagnosis for orthorexia can help break the cycle of disordered eating. This is vital since orthorexia can lead to symptoms of other EDs, as well as mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

Understanding the Different Types of Eating Disorders

Different types of eating disorders all have distinct behaviors and symptoms.

But, regardless of the specific ED, the most effective eating disorder treatment is to work with a recovery coach. Through a process of life coaching and personalized support, recovery is possible.

If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, feel free to get in touch with me today for more information.

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