eating disorder symptoms and treatments

Suffering From Eating Disorder? | Symptoms & Treatments

I have already discussed in my previous blog about Eating Disorder causes and the risk it poses to society. In this blog, however, I am going to talk about the symptoms, the types and the treatments regarding Eating Disorder.

Symptoms of Eating Disorder

  1. Overeating or under-eating
  2. Endless fasting
  3. Anxious about body weight
  4. Obsessed with diet routines and exercise
  5. Counting of calories while eating
  6. Excessive or frequent weight loss
  7. Physical weaknesses
  8. Prone to cold and allergy
  9. Weak immunity
  10. Drowsy feeling
  11. Nervous eating
  12. Depression and mood swings
  13. Emotional vulnerability

Types of Eating Disorder

We can classify eating disorder into 6 major categories-

Anorexia Nervosa (AN)

Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common types of eating disorders found across the globe.  People with anorexia nervosa believe they are overweight and need to lose weight. So, as a solution, they starve themselves to death.

patient suffering from anorexia nervosa
Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Most of the victims of this disorder are super skinny. Yet, they seem to consider themselves fat and unattractive. And, start living in the illusion of being overweight. So, weight control seems to be the only way out for these people.

Such people are also seen to follow extreme diets and exercises. But gradually, their bones become brittle and major health issues creep in. The sad story, however, is that people suffering from anorexia nervosa don’t realize their health is at stake until it is too late.

Bulimia Nervosa (BN)

Another popular eating disorder is Bulimia Nervosa. People suffering from BN has manic tendencies. They would binge-eat for several days or even weeks. And then fall back to losing weight with all sorts of extreme solutions.

patient suffering from bulimia nervosa
Photo by Muhammad Ruqiyaddin on Unsplash

Some include excessive exercise, extreme diets, purging or even starving for long periods. Mostly, their motivation to lose weight is due to the large degree of shame and guilt for manic eating episodes.

People with Bulimia Nervosa, in general, lack self- worth. And their decisions largely rely on their eating habits. That being said, they fear gaining weight. But have little to no self-control during compulsive eating stages.

Binge-eating disorder (BED)

People falling under this category is similar to those diagnosed with bulimia nervosa. The only difference is that BED sufferers don’t have the strong urge to lose weight after binge-eating. Yet, they feel the same level of guilt for overindulging as the BN victims.

patient suffering from binge eating disorder
Photo by Smitty on Unsplash

They usually overeat due to emotional reasons. And their overindulgence can vary from weeks to months or even years. They do not attempt to lose weight afterward. So, they show drastic changes in physical appearances. Eventually, degrading their self-esteem.

And the cycle of unworthiness, guilt and, overeating continues.

Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

During my childhood, I was amused by my cousin’s brother. He would refuse to eat any kind of dairy product. Having no knowledge of an eating order of this kind, I was unable to empathize with him. I was unaware that a person can build a distaste of food (that I personally loved).

It was not until I matured, that I realized that my brother is suffering from Avoidant Food Intake Disorder.

Basically, those suffering from this disorder detest certain kinds of food due to their smell, taste, texture. Sometimes even the color can bother them. What is unique about this disorder is that such people are generally underweight. My brother was too.

In most cases, the eating disorder starts from their childhood. And would continue later in life. The problem is so psychological, that even if they try to eat those food(s), they can get abdominal pain or vomit it out. This is a perfect example of negative conditioning to foods.


Pica is one of those disorders that is a crossover with addictions. People who suffer from Pica have an appetite for non-edible items like dirt, chalk, etc.

Like any addict, they require counseling and rehabilitation to grow out of the habit of eating non-edible substances. Else, it can cause physical illnesses.

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

Eating disorders that don’t fall under any of the above five cases come under OSFED.

For example, there are people who are healthy even if they don’t eat for a long time. Such cases don’t fall under AN or BN. Rather, they are classified as Atypical Anorexia Nervosa. And, it is a classic example of OSFED. 

BED and BN of lower frequency and duration (which does not cause extreme health problems) fall under OSFED.

Overeating late at night or night eating syndrome is also an example of OSFED.

Another controversial category of OSFED is orthorexia. It is the obsession of eating healthy food which causes emotional distress and anxiety. Orthorexia is debatable because some don’t prefer to classify it as eating disorder. But, in my opinion, if the disorder causes anxiety or mental imbalance, it needs to fall under ED.

A Study On Eating Disorder

In a study conducted by Oregon Research Institute, it was found that among 496 females, 0.8% were suffering from anorexia nervosa, 2.6% from bulimia nervosa, 3% from binge-eating disorder, a whopping 14.2% from OSFED and 13.1% had combinations of two or more eating disorders.

study on eating disorder by Oregon research institute
Image from NCBI, Pubmed

Moreover, it also stated that such eating disorders have a direct relation with mental and physical health problems. This study definitely suggests treating ED patients with equal importance and seriousness like any other mental disorder.

Treatments of Eating Disorder

There are two scopes of treatments that need to be realized side by side. But, before I list down the possible treatments, we must understand the goals that need to be achieved with the treatments.

Primary goals-

  1. Proper diet
  2. Resolution of body image problems
  3. Improvement in self-esteem
  4. Better mental health and happiness

The treatments involve-

  1. Dietician
  2. Psychiatrist (for extreme cases)
  3. Psychologist/ Therapist


A dietician will create a diet chart for the patient depending on his/ her condition. The diet chart is unique for everyone. Because everyone requires different sets of nutrition in their body. One must intake proper nutrition as suggested by the dietician for visible improvements in health.


Diet is far more important for recovering eating disorder patients, as they already lack nutrition, vitamins, and minerals essential for one’s survival.

Due to months and years of neglect, they have formed a weak immune system. And. are highly vulnerable to organ failures and terminal diseases. So, the family members need to take extreme care of his/ her diet. They need to make sure that the diet is properly followed without any fail.


Depending on the patient’s comfort level and the extremity of the situation, a psychologist or a therapist can recommend a group therapy or one-on-one treatments.


Some popular treatments for Eating Disorder are-

CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT deals with the changes in the beliefs and thoughts of the patient. It can improve the patients’ views on body image to a large extent.

FBT or Family-Based Treatment

All the family members are included in this treatment. Eating healthy food together is encouraged for better family bonding and understanding. A sense of belonging and togetherness among teenagers can help them recover from eating disorders.

ACT or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

ACT is exactly what it stands for. First, the therapist assigns some goals for the patients. In this case, eating healthy food, creating a healthy lifestyle and developing healthy thoughts about body and self are some of the goals one can work on. And finally one has to stick to the goals for the treatment to work.


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Trisha Nandi

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