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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - Types of Eating Disorders

Did you know there is an eating disorder named for people who eat hair, chalk, and paint? “Eating disorder” looks different for everybody and are more varied and dangerous than one may think. Here are five different types of eating disorders (EDs) that you should know.

(1) Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is a relatively new diagnosis, previously called “selective eating disorder.” It describes eating disorder behavior in which an individual is unable to eat frequently, consequently failing to meet nutritional needs. The physical and mental consequences are similar to anorexia nervosa. However, people with ARFID do not have excessive concerns relating to body image or weight.

Food avoidance or picky eating may be caused by

  • low appetite and lack of interest in food or eating

  • extreme avoidance of food based on sensory discomfort (e.g. texture, color, smell of food)

  • anxiety or concern surrounding eating (e.g. fear of choking, vomiting, allergic reaction)

To diagnose an individual with ARFID, the patient, along with food avoidance, must be associated with significant weight loss, nutritional deficiency, need to rely on a feeding tube, and/or interference with social functioning. However, autistic individual who have similar behaviorism often do not receive such a diagnosis. Similarly, children often go through a picky eating phase, which would not be considered ARFID behavior. However, that is not to say those behaviors may not develop into ARFID.

(2) Pica

Pica is an eating disorder in which an individual continuously consumes things that are not food with no nutritional value for at least over a month. Some of these irregular things are hair, paint, chalk, pebbles, and clay. However, those with pica don’t particularly have an aversion toward food.

Until the age of 2, pica is not diagnosed, as it is common for toddlers to put things that are not food into their mouths out of interest. Autistic individuals or those with intellectual disabilities may be diagnosed with pica. However, it can occur in children without disabilities as well.

(3) Rumination Disorder

Those with rumination disorder regurgitate food, meaning they re-chew, re-swallow, or spit out their food. It can occur in infancy, childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.

The criteria for rumination disorder include

  • occurring repeatedly for at least a month

  • not due to a gastrointestinal or medical problem

  • not occurring as a part of another behavioral eating disorder

Typically, regurgitating food will not upset or disgust an individual with remuneration disorder. They also do not seem to be making an effort to regurgitate.

(4) Other Specific Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED)

OSFED is diagnosed by disturbances of eating behavior that cause distress, and impairment to family, social, or work environment. Usually, OSFED is diagnosed to those who condone eating disorder behaviors but do not meet the diagnostic threshold or weight criteria of other eating disorders.

OSFED includes a wide range of eating disordered behaviors. Some of these behaviors include

  • frequent episodes of eating in large quantities, followed by restricting to avoid weight gain

  • self-esteem overly related to body image

  • expression of the need to “burn off” calories

  • evidence of purging behavior (such as leaving after a meal, presence of laxatives)

An example of a subtype of OSFED is “atypical anorexia nervosa.” People in this category may have lost a lot of weight and behavior reflects that of anorexic individuals like preoccupation with body image, but haven’t met the weight criteria. This could be because the individual’s baseline weight was above average. This would be an example of an individual who may look seemingly average physically but is suffering mentally.

(5) Unspecific Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED)

Similar to OSFED, UFED refers to characteristics of a feeding and eating disorder that cause significant distress to social, occupational, or other areas of life. These behaviors severely disturb life, but they may not meet the full criteria for any of the disorders in the feeding and eating disorders diagnostic class.

This diagnosis is used when the clinician chooses not to specify the reason the criteria are not met and presents a lack of information to make a more specific diagnosis. Such a situation may be in the emergency room.

As seen above, not all eating disorders encompass body image issues, wanting to be thin, or being underweight. Again, eating disorders look different for different people. For some, eating disorders do not connect to physical appearances. Some people may have an eating disorder due to past trauma or childhood habits. The word “eating disorder” often is associated with the image of a sad, malnourished girl. But I hope that image has changed after reading this article and learning about some interesting yet lesser-known types of eating disorders.

Writer: Isara Moriya




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