What are Eating Disorders?

To help keep myself sane during COVID19, I’ve been reading a ton of books. One topic that I wanted to refresh my memory on has been eating disorders, especially after I saw “To the Bone” on Netflix, which I highly recommend. Today, I’ll be providing a user-friendly overview of the three categories of eating disorders listed in the DSM5: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa

There are two main types of anorexia:

  • Restricting type- limiting food intake.
  • Binge-eating/ purging type- having episodes of overeating, then purging what was consumed using laxatives, diuretics, self-induced vomiting, or excessive exercise.

The clinical symptoms of anorexia are as follows:

  • Restricting food intake to the point that one’s body weight is significantly below normal according to the body mass index (BMI).
  • Extreme fears of gaining weight.
  • Body distortions- viewing oneself as “fat” despite being emaciated.

Bulimia Nervosa

It’s worth noting that there are similarities between anorexia and bulimia; however, the way to tell them apart is that anorexia results in drastic weight loss, whereas bulimia does not.

The clinical symptoms of bulimia are as follows:

  • Frequent episodes of binge-eating, which are defined as ingesting enormous amounts of food. This isn’t just “pigging out;” rather, the binge-eater feels a loss of control during the binge. The person often feels shame following a binge.
  • Behaviors to compensate for the caloric intake- purging what was consumed by taking laxatives, vomiting, or excessively exercising.
  • There’s a high focus on body weight, shape, and appearance.

Binge Eating Disorder

It’s also worth noting that there are similarities with bulimia and binge eating disorder; however, they differ because bulimics attempt to purge their caloric intake whereas binge eaters do not.

The clinical symptoms of binge eating disorder are as follows:

  • Binge eating episodes- as described in the last section.
  • These binge episodes are also characterized by three or more of the following behaviors:
    • Eating fast
    • Eating past the point of being full
    • Eating copious amounts even when not hungry
    • Eating alone due to the shame of binge eating
    • Feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, depression, and low self-esteem
  • Does not engage in behaviors to compensate for the amount of food consumed (like we saw with anorexia and bulimia.)


Eating disorders are some of the deadliest mental health disorders listed in the DSM5. If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, please reach out for help.

For a first-person novel about anorexia, I highly recommend “The Year I Didn’t Eat” by Samuel Pollen.

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