All Types of Eating Disorders, Defined

All Types of Eating Disorders, Defined

Many of us endure a complicated relationship with food. However, if you have found your way to this article, you may be trying to determine if your eating habits are more than complicated—are they indicative of a clinical eating disorder.

To help you on your way, let’s look at all types of eating disorders recognized by the National Eating Disorders Association.1

As you read through this list, note behaviors you recognize in yourself (or a loved one). If an eating disorder sounds plausible, take heart. By reaching out for help, you can begin to treat both the symptoms and the cause of your specific eating disorder as you work toward healing.

10 Types of Eating Disorders

Let’s start by looking at the distinguishing characteristics of the top three eating disorders. These are the ones you’ve heard of and likely know at least a little bit about. We’ll look at lesser-known types of eating disorders below.

  1. Anorexia Nervosa: Characterized by restricted calories, a distorted body image, and dramatic weight loss.
  2. Bulimia Nervosa: An eating disorder where a person binges on food and then purges through self-induced vomiting.
  3. Binge Eating Disorder: The most common eating disorder in America, involving regular excessive amounts of eating—often in private—without regular purging.

When a person struggles with one of the above eating disorders, they  may experience a sense of pride and control (such as with anorexia) or a sense of shame and a lack of control (such as with bulimia or binge eating disorder).

The characteristics may already be familiar to you. But what about other, lesser-known eating disorders? Let’s take a look at those now:

  1. Orthorexia: Occurs when a person becomes so obsessed with healthy eating that they end up causing more harm to their body than good, including severe food restrictions.
  2.  Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED): A category for people who do not meet the official criteria for anorexia or bulimia, but still exhibit the same amount of troubling thoughts and behaviors around eating and—most importantly—are at an equal risk of hospitalization or death.
  3. Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): This eating disorder looks similar to anorexia but doesn’t present with body image issues. Instead, a person may restrict food for other reasons (pickiness in children, for example) to the extent that negatively affects growth or function.
  4. Pica: Diagnosable after a period of one month or more of eating non-food items such as paper, dirt, paint chips, pebbles, clay, cloth, soap, or chalk. Pica can act as a red flag for anemia or malnutrition.
  5. Rumination Disorder: Characterized by the regurgitation of food that may then be chewed, swallowed, or spit out—all without physically or emotionally upsetting the person doing it.
  6. Laxative Abuse: An eating disorder where a person regularly ingests laxatives to rid themselves of unwanted body weight, especially after a binge.
  7. Compulsive Exercise: Though not officially recognized by the DSM-5, this is an important inclusion here as compulsive exercise can function like a purge—as a way to work off unwanted calories after a binge.

Each of the eating disorders listed above is serious and can be life-threatening. But they’re also very treatable. If you think your food habits might be more than complicated—that you might have an eating disorder—we’d love to help. Give us a call today at 562-434-6007 or connect with us through our contact form.



  1. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). “Information By Eating Disorder.”