There are different types of eating disorders, each with their own defining symptoms and characteristics. You may find that your thoughts, behaviour and feelings all fit into a single category. You may find that you have a combination of symptoms from different categories. Everyone is different. The types of eating disorder listed here are just a guide to help you, your doctor and your loved ones figure out what is going on and what can be done to help.
Sufferers of anorexia stop allowing themselves to satisfy their hunger. You are likely to be restricting how much you eat and drink, controlling the types of food you eat and may exercise in order to burn off what you perceive as excessive calories. A combination of these behaviours will result in weight loss and chemical changes in the body that affect your mood and your ability to make rational decisions about food.
Bulimia is characterised by cycles of binging and purging. You may find yourself eating large quantities of food in a short space of time, often in an attempt to ‘swallow down’ unwanted emotions or satisfy a need that cannot be met by food alone. After binge-eating you may feel an uncontrollable urge to compensate for the food consumed by vomiting, using laxatives, exercising or reducing food intake.
Binge eating disorder is characterised by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating that pushes you beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. Like Bulimia, binges are likely to result from a desire to ‘swallow down’ unwanted emotions or to satisfy a need that cannot be met by food alone. Unlike Bulimia, if you are suffering from Binge Eating Disorder you will not purge after a binge although periods of binge eating may be interrupted by sporadic fasts or dieting.
Sufferers of Compulsive Overeating will eat at times when they are not hungry. The behaviour may occur regularly or it may come in cycles. If you are suffering from Compulsive Overeating you are likely to be overweight and may use this weight and you eating disorder to protect yourself from emotional distress or as an excuse to avoid social situations. You may hide behind a happy, jolly faÃ§ade that enables you to avoid confronting your problems.
Muscle dysmorphia usually arises as a result of feeling vulnerable, having low self-esteem or from an intense dissatisfaction with body image, and more specifically with muscle size. You may view yourself as small and weak despite being told otherwise by those around you. In order to increase strength and muscle size you will be driven to a rigorous exercise regime and strict diet.
Eating disorders are complex illnesses that can be difficult to fit into distinct categories. If you have some, but not all of the diagnostic symptoms of an eating disorder or combine behavioural characteristics of different eating disorders you may be described as having an A-typical eating disorder or an EDNOS. This does not make your condition any less serious and should still seek and receive help and support.