National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

February 27, 2023
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week


  1. What is an Eating Disorder?
  2. Anorexia Nervosa
  3. Bulimia Nervosa
  4. Binge Eating Disorder
  5. Pica
  6. Rumination Disorder
  7. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
  8. Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)
  9. Unspecified Feeding or Eating disorder (UFED)

What is an Eating Disorder?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders are behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbances in eating behaviors. Eating disorders cause negative impairment in your physical, psychological, and social health. Eating disorders develop in many different stages of life, but they are more common in teens and young adults. In the United States, approximately 9% of the population is impacted by an eating disorder. Many factors can contribute to eating disorders, such as; genetic predisposition, cultural pressures, stress and coping with it, avoidance, and underlying mental health conditions. In this blog, we will explore the eight different forms of eating disorders, their symptoms, and the effects they can have on your health.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa externally looks similar to ARFID (explained below) because they are very restrictive with their eating habits. However, people with anorexia differ because they restrict their eating based on the fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia nervosa have body image distortions, which don’t necessarily reflect the reality of how they look, but they cause significant disturbance in how they see themselves. Symptoms include weight loss, hair loss, feeling cold frequently, dry and brittle skin and nails, isolation (especially when eating), poor body image, stress with food, weight, and dieting, excessive exercise schedule, and frequently making negative comments about size, weight, and appearance.

Symptoms of anorexia aren’t always underweight or in the low weight range. Atypical anorexia is when someone loses weight from dietary restrictions but can remain average or above-average weight. Just because these individuals don’t look like they have “typical anorexia” it doesn’t mean they don’t suffer from anorexia. It is equally as dangerous and if it is not treated, it can lead to many health problems. In severe cases, your organs can start to shut down and it can be fatal.


Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is diagnosed with regular binge eating and then engaging in compensatory behaviors because of the feelings they have towards eating. Compensatory behaviors include vomiting (the most common), misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after eating. Binge eating is not just “over-eating” but more of an episode where the person feels a loss of control and eats an unusually large amount of food. Because they feel guilt or shame, they engage in compensatory behaviors like the ones described above, which can also be combined with fasting and excessive exercise.

Signs of bulimia nervosa can be physical, emotional, and behavioral. Examples include; broken blood vessels in the face or eyes from vomiting, dehydration, tooth decay, isolation when eating, using the bathroom right after eating, being overly concerned with body image and weight, etc. If bulimia goes untreated, it can lead to severe health issues in multiple areas including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, and neurological. Binge eating and purging can lead to heart failure, arrhythmia, esophageal damage, anemia, insulin resistance (which leads to type 2 diabetes), sleep apnea, strokes, and more.


Binge Eating Disorder

Like bulimia nervosa (above) BED is eating large quantities of food in one sitting, however, they do not engage in compensatory behaviors after. Again, while we may all “over-eat” occasionally, binge eating disorder is different because the person feels uncontrollable when eating and it is almost impossible for them to stop.

Because there are no compensatory actions, people with binge eating disorders may not show significant weight loss, they might even experience weight gain instead. Some symptoms of BED include; feeling of guilt after bingeing, challenges in managing food intake, eating in secret, stealing or hoarding food, and a tendency to create rituals or schedules around binge eating.


Pica is an eating disorder in which you eat things that aren’t considered food and hold no nutritional value. The things that are consumed vary by the individual, age, and the environment that they are in. Some items that people with pica commonly eat are chalk, soap, paint chips, and clay. Because dangerous items are being consumed, they can cause several health problems including lead poisoning, malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, and dehydration. Not only that, but pica also affects your digestive system since the items being consumed are not food. This also leads to constipation, bowel obstructions, and hurting your intestinal lining.

There are a few factors that can contribute to a person developing pica. However, please remember that everything varies depending on the individual and it may not apply to everyone. Mental and developmental disorders can attribute to pica, as well as childhood trauma and neglect, living in under-resourced communities, pregnancy, autism, and anemia.

Rumination Disorder

Rumination disorder is rarer, but it can occur in infants, children, and adults. Rumination is the act of regurgitating food after meals. The food ingested rises into the esophagus, throat, and mouth, but is not forcefully expelled from the body like vomiting. Adults are more likely to spit out the food, while children are more likely to rechew it and swallow it. The act of regurgitating food is learned instead of being involuntary. Most people diagnosed with rumination do not typically experience nausea, involuntary vomiting urges, or feelings of disgust. If this is left untreated, it can lead to malnutrition and esophageal damage.

Rumination can be easily overlooked and seen as something else. For example, acid reflux, even though these are two completely different health issues, can be confused with each other. Symptoms can be similar but they differ because acid reflux is associated with stomach acids with a combination of a burning sensation in the chest and a sour taste in the mouth. Because rumination is rare and there is very little awareness about it, we don’t know much about this eating disorder. People who suffer from rumination try to avoid eating in public because they are typically unable to resist the urge to regurgitate their food. Rumination has been linked to neglect, stress, and lack of stimulation.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID, previously known as “selective eating disorder” is characterized by limiting your diet to only certain kinds of food. This isn’t just seen as “picky eating” The restriction can be so intense that they can avoid entire food groups and restrict the overall amount of food they eat in general. ARFID stems from a fear of something bad happening when you eat, such as vomiting, choking, and poisoning. ARFID can be connected to sensory disorders as well as autism, which means that the food they avoid can be due to colors, smells, tastes, and textures.

ARFID can seriously progress to a point where a feeding tube and supplements are necessary to deliver life-sustaining nutrients that the person cannot receive otherwise. Common symptoms of ARFID can include; dramatic weight loss, disinterest in food, food anxiety, avoiding events where food is involved, difficulty chewing or swallowing, low energy, intolerance for cold temperatures, and gastrointestinal issues such as stomach pain and constipation.

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

OSFED is typically diagnosed when someone has symptoms of an eating disorder but it doesn’t meet the criteria required to be a specific one like the ones listed above. OSFED covers a broad range of conditions and it is often caused by stress, social problems, or affects other functioning areas of life. Just like all other eating disorders, OSFED can become severe and life-threatening if not treated. OSFED classifications include atypical anorexia, purging disorder, and night eating syndrome.

Unspecified Feeding or Eating disorder (UFED)

UFED is used when symptoms are present but there are not enough criteria to meet a known disorder. However, this one is used mainly because of a lack of information. For example, if a doctor treats someone in the emergency room and they show signs of malnutrition or extremely low weight, they might conclude UFED is present, but they would need to do more tests to figure out exactly what it is.

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