The Different Types of Eating Disorders and Their Symptoms

May 17, 2023

eating disorderEating disorders are a group of conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits that can have a profound impact on an individual's physical and mental health. The causes of eating disorders are complex and can include genetics and environmental factors as well as psychological factors.

Eating disorders can affect people of any age, gender or ethnicity and can have severe and potentially life-threatening consequences. There are several types of eating disorders, each with its own unique symptoms, behaviors, and health risks.

Anorexia Nervosa

Perhaps the most well-known eating disorder, anorexia nervosa is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight along with a distorted perception of body shape and size. People with anorexia often severely restrict their food intake and may engage in excessive exercise to maintain their low body weight as well. Anorexia can lead to thinning of the bones, brittle hair and nails as well as infertility. Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Relentless pursuit of thinness and refusal to maintain a healthy weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image (those with anorexia generally view themselves as overweight, even if they’re dangerously underweight)
  • Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods)

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is another well-known type of eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by purging behaviors like self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse or excessive exercise. Bulimia can cause tooth decay, an inflamed and sore throat, severe dehydration, acid reflux, hormonal disturbances and more. Symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating
  • Recurrent episodes of purging behaviors to prevent weight gain
  • Feeling a loss of control during binge episodes
  • Preoccupation with body weight and shape
  • Fear of gaining weight despite having a typical weight or being underweight

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is the most prevalent form of eating disorder and one of the most common chronic illnesses among adolescents. Characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating without the use of purging behaviors, binge eating can lead to stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating, often quickly and in secret
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Feeling a loss of control during binge episodes
  • Guilt and shame after binge episodes
  • No use of purging behaviors, such as calorie restriction, vomiting, excessive exercise, or laxative or diuretic use, to compensate for the binge eating

Other Types of Eating Disorders

In addition to the eating disorders listed above, other lesser known eating disorders also exist. Some examples of lesser known eating disorders include:

  • Atypical anorexia nervosa – individuals meet all criteria for anorexia nervosa except weight loss
  • Purging disorder – individuals engage in purging behaviors without binge eating
  • Night eating syndrome – individuals consume the majority of their daily food intake during nighttime hours
  • Orthorexia – individuals restrict their diets to only organic, whole, or unprocessed foods and may avoid entire food groups or categories all together
  • Pica – individuals crave and eat non-food substances like ice, dirt, soap, paper, hair, laundry detergent, cornstarch and more

Eating Disorder Services at Lane


Lane Family Practice is home to several qualified physicians who are well-versed in all forms of eating disorders and the impacts they can have. Our team of licensed medical professionals provide individualized treatment plans that can give you the tools and motivation needed to help overcome eating disorders.

Learn More About Lane Family Practice