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What Are the Different Psychological Eating Disorders?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 17, 2024
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Three main forms of psychological eating disorders exist. These are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating. Some people can display certain signs of an eating disorder that do not fall into one of these categorizations. Eating small amounts of food, vomiting after meals, and abnormally strenuous exercise regimens are all signs of one or more of these eating disorders.

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological condition that manifests itself in extremely low body mass. A sufferer of this type of the psychological eating disorder may restrict food intake, cut out all high-calorie foods, and have a strong aversion to putting on weight. He or she may also exercise a lot or vomit up food to become or to stay extremely underweight. Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include social withdrawal, dry skin, and abnormal hairiness, as well as weight loss. Anorexics can suffer serious health issues, such as dehydration, fainting, and heart problems.

Bulimia is characterized by the person eating a lot of food at one time and then employing severe measures to control the perceived weight gain and psychological guilt. Vomiting after meals and taking laxatives are common methods, although bulimia sufferers may also restrict eating and attempt to burn calories through exercise. People with bulimia generally are in a normal weight range but can display issues such as damage to the mouth from vomiting and marks on the knuckles from the stomach acid.

The binge eating form of psychological eating disorders also involves eating a lot of food in one sitting. Binge eaters, however, do not vomit or use any other form of control to attempt to compensate for the guilt involved. The drive to binge eat is similar to bulimic sufferers, and the conditions can share psychological triggers. Sometimes, a person with an eating disorder does not fit into one particular disorder. These people show low-level symptoms of issues with eating and may be helped through the same treatment techniques.

All of the psychological eating disorders share the common feature of an unhealthy body image. Sufferers of eating disorders tend to associate shame and control with eating, and psychological counseling can help correct this unhealthy view. Examples of psychological techniques that may be helpful in treating sufferers include cognitive behavior therapy or cognitive analytical therapy, which focus on problem solving and identifying damaging behavior patterns. Other techniques such as family therapy and education can help the entire family group communicate problems and solutions to each other and become informed about the health implications of the disorders.

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