Types of eating disorders and their characteristics

  • Jul 26, 2021
Types of eating disorders and their characteristics

The eating disorders include numerous disorders that manifest through alterations in eating behavior with negative consequences for the health and for the functioning of the person in different areas of his life (family, work ...). Our society together with psychological and genetic factors influence its appearance at any age, although adolescence is a stage of risk. In this Psychology-Online article we are going to explain the types of eating disorders and their characteristics.

They are a set of mental disorders related to a alteration in eating behavior and they are associated with physical complications and mortality. The death rate from eating disorders is one of the highest among psychiatric disorders. This alteration can occur in several ways: limiting the amount of food eaten, eating large amounts of food at the same time, eliminating food eaten through unhealthy means (eg purging, laxatives, fasting, excessive exercise ...) or a combination of these behaviors.

Eating disorders can occur in both men and women. Currently there

4 types of eating disorders recognized by the DSM Diagnostic Manual: anorexy, bulimia, Binge eating disorder and unspecified eating disorders.

There may be people who move between one diagnosis and another if their symptoms change, as there is some overlap between some disorders. The objective of the diagnosis is for the person to follow the most appropriate treatment for their case.

In many cases, eating disorder is accompanied by depression, anxiety, personality disorders or substance abuse.

Types of Eating Disorders and Their Characteristics - What are Eating Disorders

The adolescence is a stage of risk for eating disorders, but they can appear at any age. In many cases, from when the disorder begins until treatment begins, there is a period of time, which adversely affects the duration of the eating disorder and the results of the treatment.

Studies show that early detection and intervention They can greatly reduce the duration and severity of the eating disorder. That is why it is very important to seek professional help as soon as possible, since complete recovery is possible with proper treatment. Research indicates that the earlier treatment is started, the shorter the recovery period.

Seeking help at the first warning sign is much more effective than waiting for the disorder to fully manifest itself.

Anorexia nervosa

It is characterized by:

  • Persistent restriction of food intake: a person with anorexia is unable to maintain a healthy weight and may lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time.
  • Intense fear of gaining weightEven if you are underweight, malnourished, or hungry, you still have an intense fear of gaining weight or being overweight.
  • Body image distortion: a person with anorexia nervosa focuses much of their attention on their body and body image. A person's self-esteem can be completely defined by their physical appearance or by how they think others see them. Additionally, you may develop a distorted view of your body, looking overweight when you are actually underweight.

For some people, restricting their food and weight can be a way to control areas of their life that feel out of control, and their body image can define their self-esteem. It can also be a way of expressing emotions that may seem too complex or scary, such as pain, stress, or anxiety.

The reasons why anorexia occurs vary from person to person. But among the recognized causes are: genetic predisposition and a combination of environmental, social and cultural factors. Restrictive diets and excessive physical exercise can also be risk factors for the onset of anorexia.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia is characterized by binge-eating episodes followed by compensatory behaviors. In addition, they put an excessive emphasis on their body image and their weight, which makes their self-esteem can be fully defined by these aspects. Some of the known causes include genetic predisposition and a combination of environmental, social, and cultural factors.

Binge eating episodes feature these essential features:

  • Eating a large amount of food in a relatively short period of time (for example, 2 hours).
  • Feeling of loss of control of intake (for example, they do not feel able to stop eating).
  • Compensatory behaviors are used as a way to try to control weight after bingeing. These behaviors include:
  • Barf
  • Use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Perform excessive physical exercise
  • Use of any drug in an inappropriate way to control weight, that is, the use is neither indicated nor prescribed.
  • Fast

A person with bulimia may feel lost in this cycle of bingeing and compensations feeling shame, guilt... In addition, these behaviors can become over time more compulsive and uncontrollable and lead to an obsession with food, thoughts about food, weight loss, dieting ...

People with bulimia often experience fluctuations in weight and not lose it, they can stay in the normal (healthy) weight range.

Binge eating disorder

It is characterized by frequent binge-eating episodes in which the person has a loss of control of food intake and can't stop eating despite wanting to. In addition, they usually present a series of identifiable eating habits such as eating very fast, eating when they are not hungry and continue to do so even when they are full to the point of feeling wrong.

This makes them have feelings of guilt and shame. These episodes usually occur in periods of stress, when the person is angry, bored... Sometimes it is used as a way to cope with certain situations or emotions.

Unlike a person with bulimia nervosa, a person with binge eating disorder does not use compensatory behaviors. Many people with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese. Known causes include genetic factors, combination of environmental, social, and cultural factors.

Unspecified eating disorders

They are those in which some of the described symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder may occur but do not meet the criteria for the diagnosis of these disorders.

Types of eating disorders and their characteristics - 4 types of eating disorders

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

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