Types of eating disorders

There are many different types of eating disorder, this section covers the most common types.

Anorexia nervosa

If you have anorexia you do not eat enough food to get the energy you need to stay healthy. Anorexia is about more than dieting or being thin, it’s often connected to low self-esteem and negative self-image. Some symptoms include:

  • Strict dieting leading to less energy and strength
  • Being secretive and hiding what you eat
  • Cutting food into tiny pieces to hide what you’ve not eaten
  • Over-exercising
  • Difficulty concentrating or feeling dizzy
  • Hair falling out, or growing soft fine hair on your body and face
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling cold
  • Sleeping problems
  • Feeling irritable and moody
  • Irregular or no menstrual cycle in women

Bulimia nervosa

You may eat a lot of food (binge) and then take action to prevent you from gaining weight, such as taking laxatives or making yourself vomit (purge). You may have average body weight, meaning other people may not notice that you have an eating disorder. Some symptoms include:

  • Feeling guilty or ashamed after bingeing or purging
  • Feeling obsessed with food
  • Feel unable to control your eating
  • Have a distorted view of your body
  • Being secretive about your bingeing and purging
  • Calluses on the back of your hand from forcing yourself to be sick
  • Feel anxious and tense
  • Disappearing soon after eating
  • Stomach pain, bloating and constipation
  • Having no energy and feeling tired
  • Irregular or no menstrual cycle in women
  • Frequent weight changes

Binge eating disorder (BED)

You will eat a lot of food in a short period of time on a regular basis if you have BED. As with bulimia, you won’t feel in control of your eating, and it’s likely to cause you distress. You may feel disconnected and struggle to remember what you have eaten. Some symptoms include:

  • Eating faster than normal during a binge
  • Eating when you’re not hungry and until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone or secretly
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed or disgusted after a binge
  • Low self-esteem, depression or anxiety
  • Being overweight
  • Tiredness and difficulty sleeping
  • Constipation or bloating

Other eating disorders and eating problems

Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OFSED)

OFSED means you have symptoms of an eating disorder, but you don’t fit into the current diagnostic categories for anorexia, bulimia or BED. You could have a mixture of symptoms from different eating disorders. This does not mean that your illness is less serious.

Emotional overeating

You turn to food when you have negative feelings if you are an emotional overeater. These can be feelings like anxiety or sadness. Eating food may help you to feel comforted.

Lots of people use food to help manage feelings, this is normal. But it may become a problem if this is the only management technique that you have, or you are beginning to feel out of control. Emotional overeating can cause feelings of guilt and shame.


With pica, you eat non-food objects such as chalk, paint, stones and clothing. There is no nutritional benefit from eating these items and some can be harmful. Pica can lead to further health concerns such as dental and stomach problems.

Rumination disorder

You will chew and spit out food without swallowing it if you have rumination disorder. You may do this over and over again.

Selective eating disorder (SED)

You will only eat certain foods and may refuse to try other foods if you have SED. This is common in young children. But the problem can continue into adulthood.

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