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What are the different types of eating disorders?

What are the different types of eating disorders?

An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that involves an unhealthy attitude to food causing disorderly eating behaviour. Men and women of any age can get an eating disorder but recovery is possible!

According to the UK’s eating disorder charity ‘Beat’, there are 1.25 million people in the UK living with an eating disorder right now. It’s important to be aware of eating disorders because not only does it have a great impact on an individual’s life, it affects families and friends as well.

Eating disorders aren’t just about how much or how little someone is eating, but about feelings and their attitude towards food.

Types of eating disorders


Anorexia is a serious eating disorder and mental health issue. Someone with anorexia will keep their weight as low as possible by restricting the amount of food eaten, they may also exercise excessively to get rid of the food they’ve eaten.

This type of eating disorder isn’t just about dieting, a sufferer will often see a distorted image of themselves and think they’re larger than they actually are.

Binge eating disorder (BED)

Someone with a binge eating disorder will experience loss of control and eat large quantities of food over a short period of time, even if they don’t want to. Binge eating isn’t a choice for people, a binge is usually triggered by negative emotions, sadness, anger or loneliness.

Some people who have a binge eating disorder often feel disconnected from the world and struggle to remember what they’ve eaten after a binge eating episode.


Someone who has bulimia will eat a lot of food in a short period of time (binge eating) and then feel overwhelmed with guilt and will get rid of the food (purge) by means of excess exercise, forcing themselves to be sick or using laxatives.

Bulimia can cause other serious physical complications including bloating, constipation and abdominal pain. Frequent vomiting can lead to dental issues and laxatives can seriously affect the heart and digestive system.

 Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

OSFED are just as serious as diagnosable eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Sometimes eating disorders don’t fit specific physical and psychological symptoms. Examples of OSFED include:

  • Night eating syndrome – repeatedly eating at night, whether it’s waking up in the night or continuing to eat after a typical evening meal.
  • Purging disorder – A purge through being sick or taking laxatives after eating to maintain a weight or body shape but not emotionally triggered to overeat with the guilt.

How to spot the warning signs of an eating disorder

Anyone, no matter what their age, gender, or background, can develop an eating disorder. It’s important to know what the warning signs are so you can spot them in a loved one.

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Lying about their weight
  • Hiding food from others
  • Avoiding eating with others
  • Eating small pieces of food slowly
  • Obsessive exercise

What help is available?

It’s not easy for people with eating disorders to get better on their own, they often need support from friends and family around them. If you suspect someone you know is suffering in silence, it’s important to talk to them and offer help as soon as you spot the warning signs. The sooner the person is treated, the better the chances are of a full recovery.

Talk to a GP

Talking to a doctor is the first step to recovery, it can be pretty daunting but they will be responsible for your initial diagnosis and be able to refer you to an eating disorders specialist.

Online self-help

After a diagnosis of bulimia or binge eating disorder, you may be offered access to an online self-help programme initially, which will include short support sessions either over the phone or in person.


There are several helplines which offer confidential support and information to young people and adults about eating disorders. A trained support worker will offer a safe space for you to express your thoughts and feelings, explore the treatment options available and provide further information about eating disorders.

Beat Eating Disorders Charity: 0808 801 0677

National Centre For Eating Disorders: 0845 838 2040

Seed: 01482 718130


Beat is the UK’s eating disorder charity. They began life in 1989 as the first national charity for people with eating disorders because of a merger of two local charities.

They aim to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders as a champion, guide and friend to anyone affected, giving individuals experiencing an eating disorder and their loved ones a place where they feel listened to, supported and empowered. For further help and advice, visit their website:

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When you take out a private health insurance policy with us we’ll give you access to our health and wellbeing support service, which is designed to provide online counselling, self-help programmes and medical information on a wide range of issues including eating disorders. Click the link to get your free quote today.

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