Posts Tagged ‘Characteristics’

Characteristics of Major and Minor Eating Disorders

April 14th, 2021

There are many types of eating disorders. We are most familiar with the three major disorders Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. However, there are many minor disorders effecting millions of people like Prader-Willi Syndrome and Night Eating Syndrome. This is a short list of both major and minor eating disorders describing symptoms and treatment.

Anorexia Nervosa

A potentially dangerous and life threatening disease characterized by a person’s fear of gaining weight therefore resorting to self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Anorexia typical appears in girls during adolescence and may be carried into adulthood. Some boys and men suffer from anorexia; however, it is more common in women.

There are four primary symptoms according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

* An intense fear of being “fat” even if they are underweight.

* Resistance to maintain a healthy or average body weight.

* Loss of menstrual periods in girls and women.

* Poor or distorted body image resulting in denial of serious loss of weight, or low body weight.

When people starve themselves, they are not only affecting their body weight, but also their overall nutritional well being. A few potential health risks for people with anorexia nervosa are:

* Dry hair and skin

* Severe dehydration, resulting in kidney failure

* Slow heart rate and low blood pressure

* Fainting, fatigue and weakness

* Osteoporosis

Treatment requires counseling addressing the underlying psychological factors contributing to the disease. Often a person will be treated psychologically, medically and nutritionally. Family and a strong support group is encouraged. Each person is different and treatment varies depending on the severity of the illness.

Bigorexia (Muscle Dysmorphia)

Typically seen in men, especially bodybuilders or weight lifters, bigorexia is a body image disorder where the person feels their body is too small. Therefore, they spend excessive hours at the gym working out. Sometimes seen as the “reverse anorexia” However, no matter how big or muscular a person becomes they still feel their bodies are too small.

There are no true symptoms of bigorexia other than a person’s excessive attention to body image. Bigorexia is rarely diagnosed because, it is socially acceptable for men to be muscular. Bigorexia may not be as life threatening as anorexia, but it does have dangers. Many people with the disease are prone to steroid abuse and in extreme cases; the disorder may affect the person’s work and personal life.

Binge Eating Disorder (Compulsive Overeating)

A person with binge eating disorder will compulsively overeat without throwing-up, abusing laxatives or excessively exercising to compensate for the large amounts of food they’ve just consumed.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association some signs or symptoms of binge eating disorder may be:

* Eating large quantities of food in short periods of time

* Feeling out of control over eating behavior

* Feeling ashamed by their behavior

* Sometimes eating in secret

Health problems associated with binge eating disorder are similar to those associated with obesity like, high blood pressure, heart disease, gallbladder disease and type 2 diabetes. Mental health problems like depression and anxiety usually accompany health issues.

Treatment usually involves psychological counseling to help determine the underlying causes for the disorder. A strong support system by family and friends is encouraged. It is suggested that overweight people with binge eating disorder try to conquer their demons with psychological, medical and group help prior to trying to lose weight.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is one of the three major eating disorders. Approximately 80 percent of bulimia patients are women. It is characterized by a person’s compulsion to “purge’ the food they’ve just eaten by throwing-up, abusing laxatives or exercising excessively.

There are two types of bulimia nervosa, purging and nonpurging. Nonpurgers will usually compensate for their overeating with excessive exercise or fasting.

The National Eating Disorder Association lists the three primary symptoms of bulimia nervosa as:

* Regular intake of large amounts of food with a sense of loss of control of eating behavior.

* Regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors such as, vomiting, laxative abuse or compulsive exercise.

* Extreme concern with body weight and shape.

There are many health problems associated with bulimia. These are usually associated with the method the person chooses to “purge” their food. These may include:

* Inflammation or rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting

* Tooth decay and damage from stomach acids.

* Electrolyte imbalances

* Chronic bowel problems, because of laxative abuse.

Depending on its severity, bulimia nervosa can only be treated with extensive psychological and medical counseling. Often bulimia is connected to deeper emotional and mental dilemmas.

Night Eating Syndrome (NES)

Night Eating Syndrome is a relatively new disorder. A person with night eating syndrome will often eat large quantities of food after their last meal of the day. Usually just before bed and during the middle of the night. They in turn will skip breakfast and not start eating until the middle of the day. Those with night eating syndrome will not just indulge in the occasional midnight snack, they will typically consume high calorie, low nutritious foods often through the night.

As a result, night eating syndrome effects a person’s overall emotional well-being triggering depression, insomnia and anxiety. Approx. 10 percent of all clinically obese people are believed to have NES.

Since NES is a new disorder it is still being studied there are no concrete treatment options available. Some early reports show the drug Zoloft may be effective in treating the disorder.

Treatment begins with clinical interviews and a few night in sleep study clinics. Some medications are available, but sleeping pills are discouraged.

Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NS-RED)

Sleep eating disorder is both an eating and sleeping disorder. Those with sleep eating disorder will eat while sleep waking. These people will be completely unaware of their behavior, and have no memories. They typically consume high fat and high sugar foods.

NS-RED often occurs in people who typically diet during the day. About 10 to 15 percent of people with common eating disorders are affecting. Their bodies will over compensate at night, when the person’s will is weaker, for the individual’s lack of eating or starvation during the day. Sometimes stress and anxiety can trigger NS-RED. A person will often wake up in front of the refrigerator or with food on their hands and faces.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia Nervosa is not yet a nationally recognized eating disorder. However, it is becoming more recognized. Orthorexia focuses on finding the perfect or pure diet. The person becomes so obsessed with eating nutritiously and healthy they refuse and feel guilty about eating unhealthy foods. They often eliminate all sugars and fats from their diets and no longer enjoy food.

Often people with orthorexia nervosa isolate themselves because they are so concerned about their next healthy meal they refuse to go out to eat with friends and family and insist on preparing their own meals. They sometimes refuse pharmaceutical treatments and insist on “all natural” remedies to individual illnesses.

Although orthorexia is becoming more popular is it not considered a clinical disorder and is not diagnosed or treated. Often it can be connected to other medical disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder and treated that way.


Pica is usually characterized as the persistent eating of nonnutritive substances like dirt, hair, plastic, paint and more.

This eating disorder is most commonly seen in children. It is considered inappropriate in children older than two with average developmental intelligence. It is also the most common eating disorder in people with developmental disabilities. It is sometimes seen in pregnant women craving dirt or soap to compensate for vitamin deficiencies.

Causes for the disease may include:

* Nutritional deficiencies

* Cultural and family factors

* Stress

* Socioeconomic Status

* Brain damage

* Pregnancy

Health problems occur when the person ingests infectious or hazardous material. Rocks may become stuck in the digestive track backing up bowels and creating constipation. Sharp objects may scratch or cut the esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract, creating internal infections. There is also a high risk of lead poisoning resulting from eating paint.

Pica in children often goes away on its own. Depending on the age and severity of the person, diagnosed psychological counseling is usually suggested. There is very little medical treatment available; however, some hypothesize those with the disease suffer from diminished dopamine levels and may be treated with dopamine medication.

Prader-Willi Syndrome

This is genetic disorder where the person affected never feels full. The disease is also accompanied by low muscle tone, short stature, behavior problems, cognitive disabilities and incomplete sexual development.

Prader-Willi Syndrome is triggered by a defect in the hypothalamus, which normally registers feeling of hunger. The defect makes the person never feel full, no matter how much they eat. Ironically, people with Prader-Willi syndrome need to eat less than those of equal age and height because their bodies have less muscle and tend to burn less calories.

Consequently, those with Prader-Willi syndrome are often overweight and obtain many health risks affiliated with obese people like heart disease, breathing problems and diabetes. There is no cure for Prader-Willi syndrome. Treatment typically requires extremely low-calorie diets and very little access to food. Families will usually have to put locks on refrigerators and cabinet doors. Often those diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome will also have obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Rumination Disorder

People with rumination disorder will voluntary or involuntary regurgitate and re-chew partially digested food. It may be re-swallowed or expelled.

According to, rumination is a rare disease, information and many theories are derived through small and single case studies. Theories include psychosocial factors cultural, socioeconomic, organic, and psychodynamic. It is more predominate in infants and children, and usually remits spontaneously.

Symptoms may include:

* Weight loss

* Halitosis

* Indigestion

* Raw and chapped lips

Health problems and concerns related to rumination disorder are:

* Tooth decay and erosion

* Esophagus damage

* Gastric disorders

* Aspiration

* Choking

* Pneumonia

* Halitosis

Treatments typically include psychological and medical counseling. In some extreme cases surgery, gastroesophageal fundoplication, a procedure usually reserved for people with acid reflux disease, may be used.

Many of these eating disorders are uncommon and may vary in many degrees. Always seek medical attention prior to treatment or self-diagnosis.