About Eating Disorders

The term eating disorder refers to a mental health condition which harms the individual’s physical and psychological well-being. There are different types of eating disorders, some being more widely recognised than others. Signs of eating disorders vary and sometimes can be hard to detect, particularly if the sufferer is seeking to hide them.

Here, we provide a comprehensive list of eating disorders types below, with further pages of information for each, reflecting the most recent classifications and understanding.

Although each eating disorder type will have specific symptoms, all have one core feature in common: the individual is struggling with difficult feelings and emotions and expresses this in disordered behaviour around food. Eating disorders causes, for all individuals, will be varied and there will be several factors, but all will involve different forms of emotional difficulties.

A person with anorexia will severely restrict their food intake and a person with bulimia will binge with large amounts of food, then purge by vomiting or taking laxatives. However, in both individuals, their disordered relationship with food is a way of reflecting or displacing the strong, difficult emotions that they are struggling with.

Effective treatment of eating disorders is wholly dependent on establishing an accurate diagnosis: different types of eating disorders require different treatment approaches.


Anorexia nervosa is characterised by an overwhelming fear of being a normal weight. Symptoms are dangerous and debilitating, including very low body weight, severe body image disturbance and loss of menstruation (if established). It is important to seek good, effective treatment for anorexia nervosa as soon as possible.
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Individuals with bulimia nervosa are trapped in a cycle of binge eating (consuming a very large amount of food in a short period of time), followed by a purge, inducing vomiting, use of laxatives or over-exercising. Sufferers often feel a deep sense of shame about their condition, which is driven by emotional difficulties.
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This eating disorder is becoming better understood and treated. Like bulimia, people with binge eating disorder eat large amounts of food with a sense that they have lost control, eating without pleasure to the point of discomfort. As there is no purging, sufferers are often overweight. Treatment is based on addressing the emotional issues triggering binges.
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Some people have an eating disorder that is harmful to their physical and emotional well- being, but their symptoms do not match any of the four main eating disorders types. This does not mean their eating disorder is less serious, or harmful; only that it does not fit into the classified symptoms of one type. OSFED replaces the previously used term, EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified).
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This is a newly classified disorder to accurately diagnose the many individuals who have eating difficulties but are not affected by body image. Food intake is insufficient for physical well-being and there are related social effects (isolation, stigma), but the individual is unable to have a ‘good enough’ diet for reasons which can include: sensory difficulties, trauma, phobia of certain foods types or colour.
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Food neophobia is a term which has gained currency recently as a tool for understanding difficulty with feeding and eating. It refers to an overwhelming fear of new or unfamiliar foods; ‘neophobia’ refers specifically to fear of new.
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