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Having a healthy body image is the best prevention for eating disorders, but that’s not always an easy ask. For some individuals, reaching the ideal body image can prove to become a major detriment to their health. This article will discuss what eating disorders are, the various types of eating disorders, their symptoms, and when you need to seek help.

Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental health disorders that can happen to anyone. They are characterized by unhealthy relationships with food and/or a negative self-image. When you have an eating disorder, you may eat more or less than you need, sometimes to the point of danger. Eating disorders affect your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and can result in a host of health issues, including kidney and heart problems and even death. Fortunately, helpful treatments exist.

Types of Eating Disorders and Their Symptoms

There are three main types of eating disorders:

#1. Binge-Eating

Binge-eating is characterized by eating well beyond the point of being full, sometimes to the point of discomfort. If you have a binge-eating disorder, it is likely your overeating spikes feelings of guilt and shame. Sometimes those same feelings compel you to eat more. This disorder can result in weight gain and obesity and is the most common eating disorder in the United States.

Symptoms of binge-eating include:

  • Planning to consume and consuming unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time
  • Eating beyond the point of being full or not hungry
  • Eating quickly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone or in secret because you feel embarrassed
  • Feeling shame, guilt, or distress about your eating
  • Dieting frequently, possibly without weight loss

#2. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa involves food avoidance or severe restriction. If you have this disorder, it is likely that you only eat small amounts of specific foods because you see yourself as overweight even if you are underweight. Anorexia nervosa is the most dangerous eating disorder. While it is the least common, it also has the highest mortality rate. 

Short-term symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Eating very small amounts to the point of starvation
  • Being extremely thin
  • Having an intense fear of gaining weight
  • Excessive and intense exercise
  • Seeing yourself as overweight even when you are underweight

Long-term symptoms include:

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Thin, brittle hair and nails
  • Constipation
  • Yellowish, dry, or blotchy skin
  • Mild anemia
  • Muscle wasting
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or weak
  • Infertility
  • Exhaustion from not consuming enough calories
  • Slowed breathing and pulse
  • Feeling cold all the time 

Finally, anorexia causes damage to the structure and function of the heart, brain damage, and multi-organ failure, and can result in death.

#3. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a binge-eating disorder that is accompanied by self-induced purging and/or rigorous exercise. If you have this disorder, you can be overweight, underweight, or average weight and appear to be healthy. However, like all eating disorders, bulimia causes bodily harm that is not always visible.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat from purging
  • Swelling of the salivary glands in the neck and jaw
  • Increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack
  • Acid reflux (GERD) and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Severe dehydration from purging

Treatment for Eating Disorders

The first step in treatment is seeking a diagnosis. This means reaching out to a medical health professional and letting them know your concerns. Consider taking a list to your appointment, letting them know why you believe you have an eating disorder, how long it has been going on, and what your personal goals are for treatment. This will aid them in coming up with the best treatment plan.

What you can expect after an oral health history and exam is to be referred for the following:

Nutritional Counseling

Meeting with a doctor, nurse, or nutritional counselor will help you set and achieve healthy eating goals. 


You may be prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers to support the treatment of your eating disorder. Often, eating disorders occur co-morbidly with other mental health disorders.

Individual or Group Therapy

This intervention can support you in identifying and changing negative thinking that has been contributing to unhealthy eating. Building coping skills and new behavioral patterns will help you prevent relapse.

Continued Medical Care

It is likely your healthcare professional will want to closely monitor your progress with regular check-ins. Long-term participation in treatment and group therapy groups can be essential for lasting recovery.

While there is no known cause for eating disorders, there does exist treatment that can help you establish a healthy relationship between mind, body, and food. Together with your doctor, you can come up with a plan to navigate negative thinking and establish healthy boundaries that will serve you going forward.

Eating disorders often stem from unhealthy body image that may be a result of genetic, psychological, cultural, and social factors. They are the lived, active relationship between you and your food intake as a result of that relationship, and they can be harmful to the point of death. There are three main types of eating disorders based on body image: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. Eating disorders can affect individuals of any gender. Since they are dangerous to the body, it is vital to seek help for yourself or your loved one if an eating disorder is present. West Coast Recovery Centers is ready to answer your eating disorder questions at (760) 492-6509.