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July 27, 2023

What Eating Disorder Do I Have? How to Know and How to Treat It

What Eating Disorder Do I Have? How to Know and How to Treat It

When you imagine someone with an eating disorder, you may picture a young, thin, white teenage girl, but individuals affected with eating disorders don’t fit neatly into this narrow box. 

The truth is that these illnesses affect people of all ages, sizes, sexualities, races, genders, abilities, and socioeconomic statuses. While these complex, biologically based disorders are not uncommon (nearly 30 million Americans experience an eating disorder in their lifetime), there are environmental, social, and psychological factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders.

Do you think you may be experiencing one of these illnesses, but you’re unsure what you should do next? Read on for information on:

Questions to Ask Yourself if You Think You Might Have an Eating Disorder

If you believe you may be experiencing an eating disorder, we encourage you to take our Eating Disorder Assessment Quiz. This quiz is free, quick, and confidential, and covers all types of eating disorder diagnoses. To give you an idea of what to expect, below are some questions the quiz will ask:

  • Do you worry about your weight and body shape more than other people?
  • Do you avoid certain foods for reasons other than allergies or religious reasons?
  • Do you regularly eat what others may consider to be a large quantity of food at one time?
  • Do you ever make yourself vomit (throw up) after eating?
  • Do you exercise for the sole purpose of weight control?
  • Have people expressed concern about your relationship with food or your body?

Note that the quiz is not a substitute for a professional evaluation by a trained clinician. However, answering two or more questions from the full quiz with “yes” may indicate that you have an eating disorder. If that’s the case, we encourage you to reach out for help. Please call us at 888-364-5977 or connect with us online to discuss your results.

Types of Eating Disorders and Symptoms

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) can give you a better understanding of the symptoms you may be experiencing. As you review the diagnoses, remember that every person and illness is different, and there may be aspects of a diagnosis that don’t fit your experience perfectly. You may still be struggling with a serious eating disorder even if all the criteria aren’t met.

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia is characterized by abnormally low body weight as a result of malnourishment. Individuals with anorexia often experience a distorted perception of their weight and have an intense fear of gaining weight.

The signs and symptoms of anorexia include: 

  • Unyielding pursuit of thinness
  • Extreme fear of gaining weight
  • Severely disturbed eating behavior
  • Unwillingness to maintain a weight that supports one’s overall well-being
  • Misuse of diuretics, diet pills, or laxatives
  • Excessive exercise

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia involves a cycle of binge eating followed by behaviors to compensate for large food intake, such as self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretics misuse, or excessive exercise. Individuals with bulimia feel an intense need to try to achieve an “ideal” body and will engage in these purging behaviors to control their weight or shape.

The signs and symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Uncontrolled eating, particularly after a restrictive diet or in response to a stressful or negative situation
  • Dissatisfaction with body image, size, or shape
  • Routinely and repetitively eating large quantities of food
  • Feeling out of control, depressed, or anxious
  • Compensatory behavior to offset weight gain such as vomiting, laxatives, fasting, or overexercising
  • Excusing oneself to the bathroom immediately after eating

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) is noted by recurrent episodes of excessive food consumption. During these episodes, individuals consume large quantities of food in a short period, often experiencing a loss of control. Unlike bulimia, there are no compensatory behaviors (such as purging) following the binge, but those affected experience intense negative emotions like guilt and shame.

The signs and symptoms of BED include:

  • Repeated and frequent excessive food consumption without hunger
  • Feelings of loss of control, self-loathing, depression, anxiety, and shame
  • No compensatory behaviors to “make up” for the calorie intake, such as purging or overexercise
  • Utilizing food to cope with negative emotions, but feeling distressed, disgusted, guilty, or depressed instead
  • Insomnia, joint or muscle pain, and/or headaches

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) involves a lack of interest in eating certain foods, selective eating due to sensory sensitivity, or fear-based avoidance of specific food groups. These eating behaviors can result in a failure to meet nutritional needs, but unlike in anorexia, they are not driven by a desire to be thin. 

The signs and symptoms of ARFID include:

  • Restriction in amount or type of food eaten
  • Fear of choking or vomiting
  • Lack of appetite or interest in food
  • Stunted weight gain and height growth
  • Gastrointestinal issues that seemingly have no known cause
  • No body image concerns

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) is an umbrella term for a variety of eating disorders that cause significant distress or disturbance, but do not fit the specific criteria for the other main diagnoses. 

Some conditions within OSFED include:

  • Purging disorder (purging without binge eating)
  • Binge eating disorder (with less frequent occurrences of bingeing)
  • Atypical anorexia (weight is not below normal)
  • Bulimia nervosa (with lower frequency and/or limited duration of behaviors) 
  • Night eating syndrome (excessive nighttime food consumption)

What to Do If You Think You Have an Eating Disorder

If any of the eating disorder behaviors feel similar to your experience, we encourage you to reach out to a specialty eating disorder treatment program directly. If you contact The Emily Program at 888-364-5977 or fill out our online form and have us call you, you can expect to talk to one of our dedicated Admissions Specialists. This specialist will gather your information and set up an intake appointment. 

During the 45-60 minute intake appointment, one of our knowledgeable Intake Therapists will ask you about your symptoms and needs, create a personalized care plan for you, and determine your level of care. The Emily Program’s continuum of care includes residential, partial hospitalization/intensive day (PHP/IDP), intensive outpatient (IOP), and outpatient programs. We consider your psychological, nutritional, and medical needs to create an individualized care plan that’s right for you.

Admitting you may have an issue with food or your relationship with your body is difficult, but you are not alone. Getting help early is essential for a less challenging and longer lasting recovery. Don’t wait any longer. Recovery IS possible with the proper care. 

Because of the complex nature of eating disorders, specialty care administered by a multidisciplinary treatment team is essential for a successful recovery. If you believe that you or a loved one are experiencing an eating disorder, The Emily Program’s team of eating disorder experts is here to help. Call us at 888-364-5977 or fill out our online form.



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