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Types of eating disorders explained

Eating disorders can come in many forms. Here are the most common types and their warning signs.

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Common types of eating disorders

There are four common types of eating disorders, which are:

  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED)

Binge Eating Disorder

People with binge eating disorder feel unable to stop themselves from eating and can eat a very large amount of food in a short space of time, even when they feel full.

Here are some signs that someone might have binge eating disorder:

Feeling a lack of control around food or eating

Eating large amounts of food regularly, even when they’re not hungry

Feelings of embarrassment, guilt or disgust about overeating

Sensitive to comments around food, weight or appearance

Feeling extremely upset or anxious after overeating

Eating to the point of feeling uncomfortably full

Being secretive about what they eat and when

Eating alone, in secret or avoiding social events around food

Shoplifting food or spending large amounts of money on food

Hiding food or food wrappers around the house

Feeling embarrassed or ashamed of their body or weight

Experiencing anxiety, depression, irritability or low self-esteem

Avoiding questions about eating and weight

Bulimia Nervosa

Like binge eating disorder, people with bulimia nervosa eat a large amount of food in a short period (bingeing) but then take action to get rid of this food (purging), such as vomiting, over-exercising or not eating for a long period.

Here are some signs that someone might have bulimia nervosa:

  • Fearful of gaining weight
  • Putting on or losing weight really quickly
  • Having a distorted body image or low self-esteem
  • Feeling depressed, anxious or guilty - especially at meal times
  • Obsessing over eating, food, body shape and weight
  • Fasting, counting calories or avoiding food groups
  • Over-exercising or continuing to exercise when sick or injured
  • Vomiting, misusing laxatives or appetite suppressants
  • Going to the bathroom during or shortly after meals
  • Buying lots of food and hiding it
  • Using drugs (legal or illegal) inappropriately to control weight
  • Eating in private and avoiding meals with others
  • Sensitive to comments about food, weight, body shape or exercise
  • Physical signs like tooth decay, feeling tired, dizziness

Anorexia Nervosa

People with anorexia have intense fear of gaining weight and reduce the amount of food they eat, which leads them to being significantly underweight. Some may also binge, purge or exercise excessively.

Here are some signs that someone might have anorexia nervosa:

Losing weight really quickly

Feeling faint, dizzy, tired or cold all the time

Seeing themselves as overweight when they’re actually underweight

Obsessing over food, body shape, weight or appearance

Counting calories, constant dieting or avoiding food groups

Low self-esteem (guilt, self-criticism, worthlessness)

Black and white thinking or trouble concentrating

Saying they’ve eaten when they haven’t or hiding uneaten food

Sensitive to comments about body shape, weight or eating

Over-exercising or continuing to exercise when sick or injured

Vomiting, misusing laxatives or appetite suppressants

Changes in their clothing style or appearance

Avoiding situations involving food or spending more time alone

Having rituals around food (cutting into small pieces, eating slowly)

Feeling anxious or upset around meal times

Very fearful of gaining weight

Frequently body-checking (weighing, looking in the mirror)

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

People with OSFED have many of the symptoms of the other eating disorders, but don’t meet all the symptoms needed for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.

Here’s some signs that someone might have OSFED:

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Seeming obsessed with food, eating, weight or body shape
  • Problems with body image and low self-esteem
  • Feelings of shame or guilt, especially after eating
  • Sensitive to comments around food, weight or body shape
  • Skipping meals, counting calories or avoiding certain food groups
  • Binge eating or eating at unusual times
  • Going to the bathroom during or shortly after meals
  • Over-exercising or continuing to exercise when sick or injured
  • Frequently body-checking (weighing, looking in the mirror)
  • Saying they’ve eaten when they haven’t or hiding uneaten food
  • Avoiding situations involving food, or spending more time alone
  • Physical signs like feeling faint or dizzy

Eating disorders can have a devastating impact on someone’s health. It’s important to seek support as soon as you notice any warning signs.

Who can help

If you think that you or someone you know is showing signs of an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.

Here’s who can help:

Doctor or nurse
Kids Helpline
Psychologist
Parent or trusted adult
School Counsellor
Butterfly Foundation - call 1800 33 4673

You don’t have to go through this alone.

We’re here to help.

Give​ ​us​ ​a​ ​call,​ ​start​ ​a​ ​WebChat​ ​or​ ​email ​us​ ​today.

If you are looking for more digital services and resources, check out Head to Health.

This content was last reviewed 03/03/2019

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