While eating disorders are psychological problems, they affect the individual’s physical health. Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. The three types of eating disorders include the following:
Anorexia nervosa, commonly shortened to anorexia, causes individuals to severely restrict the food they consume. People with anorexia may go long periods without eating or only eat small quantities or certain foods. They are starving themselves of nutrients.
Anorexia can cause:
- Multiorgan failure.
- Brain damage.
- Heart damage.
- Osteoporosis, or thinning of bones.
No matter how dangerously underweight they are, those with anorexia see themselves as overweight. Anorexia is the rarest eating disorder but often the most serious, with the highest death rate on the mental disorders list.
Binge-eating is when an individual over-eats, past the point of being full. In addition to feeling physically uncomfortable, binge-eaters can feel guilty, shameful, or in distress.
The act of out-of-control eating can stem from trauma and other psychological problems. Binge-eating is the most common eating disorder and leads to weight gain and obesity.
Bulimia nervosa involves binge-eating followed by purging, such as through vomiting or laxatives. Some individuals with bulimia over-exercise or fast to balance the over-eating.
People with bulimia may appear normal, over-, or under-weight. The act of eating past comfort and purging causes damage to the body, including dental cavities, inflamed esophagus, dehydration, and loss of hair.
Eating disorders are often comorbid – existing at the same time – with other types of mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Likewise, individuals can have problems with substance abuse, like drugs and alcohol. There are rare mental disorders that are becoming more common as health care professionals are more easily able to recognize symptoms.