Types of Eating Disorder

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that involve disordered eating behaviour. This might mean limiting the amount of food eaten, eating very large quantities of food at once, getting rid of food eaten through unhealthy means (e.g. purging, laxative misuse, fasting, or excessive exercise), or a combination of these behaviours. It’s important to remember that eating disorders are not all about food itself, but about feelings. The way the person interacts with food may make them feel more able to cope, or may make them feel in control.

Types of eating disorders include:

It’s common for people to be diagnosed with “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED). This is not a less serious type of eating disorder – it just means that the person’s eating disorder doesn’t exactly match the list of symptoms a specialist will check to diagnose them with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

It’s also possible for someone to move between diagnoses if their symptoms change – there is often a lot of overlap between different eating disorders. The aim behind diagnosis is to ensure that the person is getting the most appropriate treatment for their illness.

Eating disorders can cause serious harm and may be fatal – anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. But even though they are serious illnesses, eating disorders are treatable. We know at Beat from our daily contact with people affected that it is very possible to make a full recovery. Like any other illness, the sooner someone with an eating disorder is treated, the more likely recovery is. The most important thing is getting yourself or the person you’re supporting assessed and into treatment as quickly as possible. We’ve put together a leaflet, available from our downloadable resources, to help you out with getting a referral to a specialist when you visit the GP.

You can read about other eating and feeding problems here.

Issue date: September 2017  Review date: September 2020 Version 2.0 Sources used to create this information are available by contacting Beat. We welcome your feedback on our information resources.

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