About Eating disorders: Types, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Research Based
Medically reviewed by - Dr. Tez Pratap Singh, MD Written by - Dr. Shilpa R


What are Eating disorders?

Eating disorders are complicated mental health illnesses defined by disordered eating patterns and erroneous beliefs about food, weight, and body image. It should not be misunderstood as a lifestyle choice. These disorders can have serious effects on a person’s physical and mental well-being as well as their capacity to manage their emotions and carry out daily tasks. If eating disorders are not properly treated, they can cause long-term problems and, in severe cases, even death.

This article thoroughly reviews eating disorders, covering their symptoms, types, causes, risk factors, diagnosis, therapies, prevention, consequences, and prognosis.

Eating disorders are complicated mental health illnesses defined by disordered eating patterns and erroneous beliefs about food, weight, and body image.


Symptoms of Eating disorder

Symptoms of Eating disorders

Each type of eating problem has a unique set of symptoms. However, common symptoms of eating disorders may include:

  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Body image distortion
  • Weight fluctuations 1Symptoms| Researched based study from
  • Excessive exercise
  • Anger issues
  • Mood swings
  • Hair loss or thinning hair 2Symptoms| Researched based study from
  • Irregularities in menstruation
  • Obsessive ideas about calories, food, or diets
  • Excessive or restrained food consumption
  • Obsession with beauty, body type, or weight
  • Extreme anxiety about gaining weight
  • Episodes of binge eating that are frequently followed by purging
  • Skipping meals
  • Sleep issues
  • Muscle weakness


Types of Eating disorders

The following are some of the various kinds of eating disorders; however, bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorders are among the most common:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Pica
  • Rumination Disorder
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
  • Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED)

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Involves severe food restriction, a mistaken perception of one’s body, and a dread of putting on weight.
  • People who have anorexia frequently have extremely low body weights and have the greatest death rate among other eating disorders.3Types| Researched based study from

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

  • Individuals with Binge eating experience frequent episodes of uncontrollable overeating without compensatory behaviors.4Types| Researched based study from
  • They often feel a loss of control during these episodes.

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Involves recurring periods of overeating followed by coping mechanisms such as excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, or the usage of laxatives.5Types| Researched based study from


  • Is an eating condition in which an individual seek things other than food, such as ice cream, chalk, dirt, and soap.6Types| Researched based study from
  • Children, pregnant women, and those with intellectual disabilities are all susceptible to pica.

Rumination Disorder

  • The food that was previously eaten is subsequently regurgitated, chewed once more, and either swallowed or spit out.7Types| Researched based study from
  • Rumination is a choice that typically takes place 30 minutes after eating the food.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

  • ARFID is characterized by limited food intake or avoidance of certain foods based on their sensory characteristics, resulting in significant nutritional deficiencies.8Types| Researched based study from

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED)

  • OSFED was formerly called by the term EDNOS – eating disorder not otherwise specified and may include night eating disorder, purging disorder, binge eating disorder, and atypical anorexia nervosa.9Types| Researched based study from
  • These eating disorders exhibit disordered eating behavior as well as similar worries about food, weight, and body image.


Causes and Risk factors

Eating disorders can have a variety of multifactorial causes, including elements from society, the environment, psychology, and genetics. Typical risk factors include:

  • Genetic predisposition – The risk may be raised by familial histories of an eating disorder or psychological disorders.
  • Psychological factors – The emergence of an eating disorder may be influenced by low self-worth, a need for perfection body unhappiness, high levels of stress, anxiety, or depression. 10Causes| Researched based study from
  • Cultural and societal pressures – Societal emphasis on thinness, media influence, and societal norms related to beauty and body image can contribute to the development of eating disorders.
  • Traumatic experiences – People who have gone through abuse, trauma, or major life stresses may be more prone to developing disorders of eating.9Causes| Researched based study from


Diagnosis of Eating disorders

Typically, a healthcare expert does a thorough evaluation to diagnose an eating disorder, including:

  • General history
  • Psychiatric history
  • Physical examination
  • Diagnostic tests

General history

  • Family history
  • Past medical history
  • Eating habits
  • Actual weight
  • Desired weight
  • Usage of medicines like diet pills, emetics, or laxatives
  • Menstrual history

Psychiatric assessment may include

  • Anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Physical examination

  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Blood pressure
  • Temperature
  • Pulse rate
  • Sit-up-Squat-Stand test.11Diagnosis| Researched based study from

Diagnostic tests

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Kidney and liver function tests
  • Electrolytes test
  • Urine analysis
  • Thyroid function test
  • Lipid profile
  • Electrocardiograph


Treatment of Eating disorders

A multidisciplinary approach is frequently used in eating disorder treatment, and it may include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medications
  • Follow-up

Psychotherapy may commonly use the following to address the psychological and behavioral aspects of eating disorders:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Interpersonal cognitive therapy 9Treatment| Researched based study from
  • Family-based Therapy (FBT)

Nutritional counseling may include

  • Working with a registered dietitian to establish a healthy relationship with food and develop balanced eating habits.
  • Recommended for people diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or anorexia nervosa.


  • In some cases, medication may be given to manage other mental health conditions, like antianxiety, antipsychotics, or antidepressants, which often coexist with eating disorders. 12Treatment| Researched based study from


  • Patients may have a relapse of anxiety and depression symptoms and leave treatment programs once they recover from eating disorders and notice their weight increase.


Prevention of Eating disorders

Preventing eating disorders involve addressing risk factors and promoting healthy attitudes towards body image and eating. Some preventive measures include:

  • Education and awareness – Promoting knowledge about eating disorders, their risk factors, and the importance of a healthy body image can help reduce stigma and encourage early intervention.
  • Body positivity – Encouraging acceptance of diverse body shapes and sizes can help combat unrealistic beauty standards and promote a healthy body image.
  • Promoting healthy relationships with food – Fostering a positive food environment, promoting balanced nutrition, and discouraging dieting or extreme weight control measures can contribute to healthy eating behaviors.



Without appropriate treatment, eating disorders can result in severe physical and psychological complications. These may include:

  • Cardiac problems – low heart rate, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, etc.
  • Nutritional deficiency – may include niacin, thiamine, vitamin B6, B12, vitamin K, C, E, D, and folate. They can also have mineral deficiency like iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper.
  • Malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances – as a result of frequent vomiting.
  • Growth problems – slow growth, delayed puberty, menstrual disturbances in females.
  • Cognitive problems – loss of memory, and focus.
  • Poor dental health – erosion of teeth from the acid reflux, or frequent vomiting.
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances – dehydration, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, nausea, acid reflux.2Complications| Researched based study from
  • Psychological issues – anxiety disorders, suicidal thoughts,10Complications| Researched based study from social isolation, self-harm, depression, aggression, or personality disorders like borderline personality disorder, Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and avoidant personality disorder.
  • Addiction – to substance, smoking or alcohol.
  • Decreased strength – muscle weakness, anemia, decreased bone mineral density, increased risk of fractures.
  • Other problems – weakened immunity, obesity, type 2 diabetes, seizures, metabolic acidosis, coma, or even sudden death9Complications| Researched based study from


Eating disorders Prognosis

Eating disorders are difficult mental health illnesses that could have serious effects on a person’s physical and psychological health. Early detection, intervention, and comprehensive treatment can improve the prognosis for individuals with eating disorders. Full recovery is possible with appropriate support, although the journey may be challenging and require ongoing management. By fostering a culture of body acceptance, education, and accessible treatment, we can work towards reducing the prevalence and impact of eating disorders in our society.

Disclaimer: The user acknowledges that this article's information is being offered for informational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to guarantee that the article is informational and correct. If they have any doubts or questions about their health, we firmly advise our readers to visit a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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