An eating disorder is a serious condition in which someone is so preoccupied with food and weight that they can focus on little else. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders can cause serious and even life-threatening physical problems. Most people with eating disorders are females, but males can also develop eating disorders.
The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown. Even though an eating disorder can appear to be a medical problem, it is considered an emotional or mental illness. As with other mental illnesses there is likely to be a multitude of contributing factors. Biological, psychological, societal influences have all been implicated in the development of eating disorders
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating and purging. During a binge episode, an individual will typically eat a very large amount of food in a short period of time and then try and rid themselves of the calories by vomiting or through other harmful behaviors designed to compensate for the binge episodes, such as excessive exercise. Individuals with bulimia nervosa can be normal weight or even a bit overweight. When binge eating and purging occur in low-weight individuals, these symptoms are considered part of anorexia nervosa.
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by regularly eating excessive amounts of foods (binge eating) but without the compensatory behaviors seen in bulimia nervosa. Individuals with binge eating disorder might eat when not hungry and continue eating even after uncomfortably full. Binge eating disorder can afflict people who are normal weight, overweight or obese.
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a new diagnosis in the DSM-5, and was previously referred to as “Selective Eating Disorder.” Although many children go through phases of picky or selective eating, a person with ARFID does not consume enough calories to grow and develop properly and, in adults, to maintain basic body function. In children, this results in stalled weight gain and vertical growth; in adults, this results in weight loss.