Types of Eating Disorders: Signs and Symptoms to Look For

Last Update on September 18, 2023 : Published on April 2, 2020

Generally, we tend to assume that there are two types of eating disorders- eating too much or eating too little!

Well, let me break it for you. Eating disorders are more than just ‘eating less or more.’ There are various types of eating disorders that are experienced by many.

It is important for us to understand that there are different types of eating disorders as according to research and stats data nearly 50% of us have or have had an eating disorder or its symptoms at some point in our lives. They are likely to occur in mild forms in many of us which if not well taken care of can result in a mental health condition.

According to the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are six broad types of eating disorders. We will be discussing each of them along with their symptoms that will help you understand it better.

Let us begin…

Types of Eating disorders:

1. Anorexia Nervosa

A very well-known disorder that develops during adolescence is- Anorexia nervosa.

Individuals with anorexia tend to view themselves as overweight even if they are underweight. As a result of this, they tend to involve in various practices like restricting calories, avoiding certain foods, and constant monitoring of weight.

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa (as per DSM-5)

  • Being considerably underweight compared with people of similar age and height
  • Very restricted eating patterns
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or persistent behaviors to avoid gaining weight, despite being underweight
  • A relentlessness pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight

DSM-5 further classifies anorexia nervosa in two subcategories:

  • The Restricting Type: Here the individuals lose weight through fasting, dieting, and excessive energy alone.
  • The Binge Eating or Purging Type: Under this category fall the individuals who tend to binge on large amounts of food or very little amount. After consuming food, they tend to purge it out using activities like vomiting, laxatives use, or excessive exercises.

This disorder has a detrimental impact on physical health as well. Over time, individuals may experience bone thinning, brittle nails and hair, infertility, and heart diseases.

Also Read: Long Term Effects Of Bulimia Nervosa: Things You Should Keep In Mind

Types of Eating Disorders

2. Binge-Eating Disorder

The most common among the list of types of eating disorder is ‘Binge Eating Disorder’.

The hallmark of this disorder is eating unusually large amounts of food in short periods of time, accompanied by a lack of control during these binge episodes.

It stands out from the other disorders listed above as it is not followed by purging episodes, excessive exercises, restricting calories, afterward.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder (as per DSM-5)

  • Eating large amounts if foods rapidly, in secret and until uncomfortably full, despite not hungry
  • Feeling a lack of control during episodes of binge eating
  • Feeling of distress, such as shame, disgust, or guilt, when thinking about the binge-eating behavior
  • No use of purging behaviors, such as calorie restriction, vomiting, excessive exercise, or laxative or diuretic use, to compensate for the binging.

Apart from these symptoms, people with binge eating disorder gain excessive weight leading to obesity. This further increases their risk of medical conditions like- type 2 diabetes, stroke, and others.

3. Bulimia Nervosa

This order has some similarities with the other two types of eating disorders mentioned above like- binge eating episodes until the individual becomes uncomfortably full, with an inability to stop eating and purging it out with the help of excessive exercises, laxatives and diuretics usage, vomiting and other ways.

However, it stands out from the subcategory of anorexia binge-eating and the broader category of binge eating disorder on two grounds viz.,

  • The binges happen with any type of food, even the ones they would normally avoid.
  • People with bulimia usually maintain a relatively normal weight instead of becoming underweight.

It tends to develop during early adolescence and early adulthood.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa (as per DSM-5)

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating with a feeling of lack of control
  • Recurrent episodes of inappropriate purging behaviors to prevent weight gain
  • Self-esteem overly influenced by body shape and weight
  • A fear of gaining weight, despite having a normal weight

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa

4. Rumination Disorder

Rumination disorder is a new addition in the list of types of eating disorders. It should not be confused with the medical conditions like- reflux and similar, as they are involuntary. However, rumination is voluntary.

A general pattern seen among individuals with rumination disorder is:

  • Regurgitating previously chewed and swallowed food
  • Rechewing it
  • Swallowing it again or spitting it out

This pattern generally occurs within the first 30 minutes after a meal.

If rumination disorder develops during infancy i.e., 3-12 months of age, it often disappears on its own. Adults may restrict the amount of food they eat. In the case of children and adults therapy is required to treat it.

5. Pica

This eating disorder is the different one among all as it involves eating things that are not considered food. To put it in simpler terms, there is a craving for non-food substances in individuals having Pica.

Although there is no particular age bracket that is more vulnerable to Pica it most frequently occurs in pregnant women, children, and individuals with mental disabilities.

Here are some non-substances food items consumed by individuals with Pica:

Detergent, Ice, Cornstarch, Cloth, Wool, Paper, Hair, Chalk, Soap, Pebbles, Soil, Dirt, etc.

Intake of these non-food substances further increases the risk of infections, gut injuries, and nutritional deficiencies among individuals with Pica.

It is also important to note here that for an eating pattern to be classified under Pica category the consumable non-food item must not be a part of someone’s religion or culture.

rumination Disorder

6. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake

Earlier known as “Feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood” is a disorder that was previously thought to be diagnosed for children under 7 years of age. Although recently, it has been found that ARFID could develop during infancy or early childhood; but, in some cases can persist into adulthood.

This eating disorder is marked by experiences of disturbed eating generally due to distaste for certain colors, tastes, textures, smells or lack of interest in eating. It goes beyond the normal behavior of having lower food intake in older adults and picky eating in toddlers.

Symptoms of AFRID (as per DSM-5)

  • Avoidance or restriction of food intake that prevents the person from eating sufficient nutrients or calories
  • Eating habits that interfere with normal social functions, such as eating with others
  • Weight loss or poor development for age and height
  • Nutrient deficiencies or dependence on supplements or tube feeding

Apart from these six classified eating disorders there is one more to the list that has not been added to the DSM-5 list of eating disorders but has been found to be prevalent among adolescents and adults. This is:

Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OFSED)

Under OFSED falls another type of eating disorder that is- orthorexia. The reason why I am mentioning this is, that it has gained much attention in recent researches, media and articles. Generally people with Ortorexia have an obsessive focus on eating healthy, to an extent that it causes disturbance in their daily lives. In fact, they link their identity, life satisfaction and self-worth with how well they are complying with their diet-rules.

This can have equal harm on the physical and mental health of these individuals. Therefore, it has been taken care of as well.

These categories are developed so that a clearer and better understanding of the symptoms can be made. Also, it allows canceling out the overlapping signs and symptoms for a better diagnosis and treatment approach.

If you have any of these signs or have witnessed them in someone you love, seeking a mental-health expert is surely recommended. It will help you come out stronger and healthier.

Thank you for reading…

More Article to Read About Eating Disorders:

An Overview To Types of Anxiety Disorders Therapies

Do’s and Don’ts for Recovering From Eating Disorders

An Overview of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: DSM-5

Nine Truths Of Eating Disorder Revealed

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.


  1. Ellie Sheppard
    Ellie Sheppard

    Hi, this article about Types of Eating Disorders: Signs and Symptoms to Look For is very useful and inspirational. Great success with this site!

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