What kind of eating disorder do I have?

Eating disorders are complicated psychological disorders with serious medical complications. Each disorder presents with a variety of different symptoms leading some to feel confused on whether they have an eating disorder, and understanding what they may be suffering from.

Outlined below are some common characteristics among the different eating disorder diagnoses.

Anorexia Nervosa:

Individuals with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa (AN) typically have a tremendous fear of weight gain. There is often times a refusal to maintain a healthy weight for their body. Additionally, people with AN struggle seeing their bodies as they are, often seeing themselves as overweight. These individuals restrict their intake, may go long periods of time without food, and have smaller than adequate portions. Other signs of AN include obsessing over calories and food labels, weighing and measuring food, avoiding specific foods or food groups.

Bulimia Nervosa:

Individuals with bulimia nervosa (BN) are often on a strict diet or exercise plan. They experience episodes of restriction followed by binge eating and purging (often through the use of self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, fasting and extreme exercise). 

Binge Eating Disorder:

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common of all the eating disorders, yet it is often not spoken about because people feel embarrassed or ashamed.  BED is classified by recurrent binge eating or “emotional” eating.  A binge episode often happens when someone is alone and feels out of control.  People with BED may not necessarily be at a higher than average body weight. 

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID):

ARFID is a “newer” eating disorder, although it has affected individuals for decades.  Typically known as “extreme picky eating,” this diagnosis follows similar patters to that of Anorexia; but it is not related to fear of gaining weight. Rather, individuals with ARFID are afraid of an uncomfortable or painful reaction after ingesting food.  These reactions are most commonly a fear of vomiting, choking, gagging, intolerable food taste or a gastrointestinal episode or allergic reaction.   Because of the strong fear, these individuals tend to eat small amounts of food that are very limited and specific in variety.  ARFID is more common in men than in women and the diagnosis often times goes along with an underlying anxiety disorder.  Both children and adults can suffer from ARFID.  Most people who suffer from an eating disorder may notice characteristics in several of the categories.  At the end of the day however, this isn’t about a label or giving yourself a category to fall in. If you feel as though your world revolves around food and your relationship with food creates strain or stress within you or among your loved ones, chances are there is some disordered eating going on.  Seeking the advice of a skilled therapist or counselor is a good starting point to help you navigate your next best steps.