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What Types of Eating Disorder are there?

The practice of an eating disorder can be viewed as a survival mechanism. Just as an alcoholic uses alcohol to cope, a person with an eating disorder can use eating, purging or restricting to deal with their problems. Some of the underlying issues that are associated with an eating disorder include low self-esteem, depression, feelings of loss of control, feelings of worthlessness, identity concerns, family communication problems and an inability to cope with emotions. The practice of an eating disorder may be an expression of something that the eating disordered individual has found no other way of expressing. Eating disorders are usually divided into three categories: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Compulsive Overeating.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is a disorder where the main characteristic is the restriction of food and the refusal to maintain a minimal normal body Weight. Any actual gain or even perceived gain of Weight is met with intense fear by the Anorexic. Not only is there a true feeling of fear, but also once in the grasp of the disorder, Anorexics experience body image distortions. Those areas of the body usually representing maturity or sexuality including the buttocks, hips, thighs and breast are visualised by the Anorexic as being fat. For some Anorexics, Weight loss is so severe that the menstrual cycle can be interrupted. In the obsessive pursuit of thinness, Anorexics participate in restrictive dieting, compulsive exercise, and laxative and diuretic abuse. If Anorexia Nervosa is left untreated, it can be fatal.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimics are caught in the devastating and addictive binge-purge cycle. The Bulimic eats compulsively and then purges through self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics, strict diets, fasts, vigorous exercise, or other compensatory behaviors to prevent Weight gain. Binges usually consist of the consumption of large amounts of food in a short period of time. Binge eating usually occurs in secret. Bulimics, like Anorexics, are also obsessively involved with their body shape and Weight. The medical complications of the binge-purge cycle can be severe, and like Anorexia, can be fatal.

Compulsive Overeating

Compulsive Overeaters are often caught in the vicious cycle of binge eating and depression. They often use food as a coping mechanism to deal with their feelings. Binge eating temporarily relieves the stress of these feelings, but is unfortunately followed by feelings of guilt, shame and depression. Binge eating, like Bulimia, often occurs in secret. It is not uncommon for Compulsive Overeaters to eat normally or restrictively in front of others and then make up for eating less by bingeing in secret. For other Compulsive Overeaters, binges consist of picking at foods all day long. Like the other eating disorders, Compulsive Overeaters are constantly struggling and unhappy with their Weight. It is not uncommon for the number on the Weight-scale to determine how they feel about themselves. Medical complications can also be severe and even life-threatening for Compulsive Overeaters.


Unless treated, the individual suffering from an eating disorder is putting their life at risk. These are often complicated cases, without a quick solution. However, support from close family members, friends and possibly therapy can have reasonable results. The most important aspect of these types of conditions is to discover the underlying cause for the condition, and of course, society itself plays a part in its depiction of the ideal form.

The International Eating Disorders Centre


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