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Eating Disorders: Types, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Guide

  1. Common Misunderstandings of Eating Disorders
  2. Eating Disorders and Their Common Types
    1. Anorexia Nervosa
    2. Bulimia Nervosa
    3. Binge Eating Disorder
    4. Pica
    5. Rumination Disorder
    6. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
    7. Orthorexia
  3. Other Eating Disorders
  4. Causes of Eating Disorders
  5. Diagnosing Eating Disorders and Mental Disorders
  6. Eating Disorder Treatments
  7. Helping Someone Overcome an Eating Disorder
  8. Treatment Options for Eating Disorders
    1. Psychotherapy
    2. Family Approach
    3. Nutritional Education
    4. Medication
    5. Stepped Care Programs
    6. Getting Professional Care
  9. FAQs
    1. What is an eating disorder, and give some examples?
    2. What are three examples of disordered eating?
    3. What is an eating disorder described as?
    4. What is most associated with eating disorders?
  10. Types of Eating Disorders Summary

Eating disorders are complex mental disorders that manifest in various ways, affecting an individual’s relationship with food, body weight, and body shape.

Whether you or a loved one is grappling with this challenging condition, it’s crucial to understand its nuances for effective eating disorder recovery.

This article aims to shed light on the types of eating disorders, symptoms, and treatments available, offering a comprehensive resource for those seeking guidance and support in Australia.


Common Misunderstandings of Eating Disorders

Despite growing awareness, many misconceptions persist about eating disorders. One of the most common misunderstandings is that eating disorders are solely about an obsession with food or weight gain.

In reality, they are complex mental health conditions often linked to many factors, such as emotional well-being, self-esteem, and sometimes even a distorted body image. Dispelling these misconceptions is essential for fostering understanding and effectively supporting those affected.

Eating Disorders and Their Common Types

Eating disorders are severe conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact physical health, mental well-being, and everyday functioning.

According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration in Australia, approximately 9% of the Australian population is affected by eating disorders. These conditions often stem from genetic, psychological, and social factors. Trends suggest an alarming rise in the prevalence of these disorders, particularly among young people.

However, the good news is that with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, recovery is possible. Various solutions, from medical treatments to psychological support, are available to help individuals regain healthy eating habits and improve mental health.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image that leads to self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Common Signs: Preoccupation with dieting, food, and body size; noticeably underweight; denial of the severity of weight loss.

Common Symptoms: Extreme diet restriction, emotional withdrawal, fatigue, irritability, and amenorrhea in women.

Age and Sex Demographics: Most commonly affects teenagers and young adults, with a higher prevalence among females.

Health Concerns and Risks: Anorexia can lead to severe physical issues, including heart problems, bone loss, and kidney dysfunction.

Treatment and Recovery Options: Treatment often involves a multidisciplinary approach that includes medical, nutritional, and psychological therapies.


Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is a fairly common eating disorder that affects people who are conscious of their weight or are afraid of gaining weight. It is characterized by intense binge eating followed by purging.

Common Signs: Regular disappearance after meals, evidence of binge eating, use of medications like laxatives (to purge consumed food) or diuretics (to purge excessive fluids).

Common Symptoms: Eating excessive amounts of food within short periods, feeling a lack of control during binge episodes, and frequent dieting.

Age and Sex Demographics: Typically affects late adolescents and young adults; it is more common in females but increasingly affects males.

Health Concerns and Risks: Bulimia can cause gastrointestinal problems, severe dehydration, and an electrolyte imbalance that could lead to heart failure.

Treatment and Recovery Options: Treatment usually comprises cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications like antidepressants, and nutritional counseling.


Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by regular episodes of excessive, uncontrollable eating, but unlike bulimia nervosa, these binge episodes are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting.

Common Signs: Overeating quickly, eating alone to avoid embarrassment, and stockpiling food.

Common Symptoms: Eating even when not hungry, feeling distressed or guilty after binge eating, and lacking control during binges.

Age and Sex Demographics: Mostly affecting adults, this disorder is slightly more common in women than men but is more balanced in gender distribution than other eating disorders.

Health Concerns and Risks: Binge Eating Disorder is associated with obesity, increasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Treatment and Recovery Options: The treatment often includes psychotherapy, antipsychotics or antidepressants, and dietary counseling to establish healthy eating habits.


Pica is a feeding or eating disorder where individuals consume non-nutritive, non-food substances over at least one month, which is developmentally inappropriate.

Common Signs: Consuming non-food items like soap, cloth, wool, or ice.

Common Symptoms: Persistent eating of non-nutritive substances, sometimes leading to digestive issues or poisoning.

Age and Sex Demographics: Primarily affects infants, toddlers, and children but can also be observed in adults and is more prevalent among males.

Health Concerns and Risks: Pica can lead to various health complications, such as lead poisoning, parasitic infections, and dental injuries.

Treatment and Recovery Options: Treatment depends on the underlying cause, including addressing nutrient deficiencies or implementing behavioral interventions.


Rumination Disorder

Rumination Disorder involves regularly regurgitating food, which may be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out. Unlike medical conditions like GERD, the regurgitation is not due to a medical issue but is a repeated, voluntary behavior.

Common Signs: Frequent regurgitation of food, re-chewing or spitting out food, and a lack of nausea before regurgitating.

Common Symptoms: Recurrent episodes of regurgitation without a nauseous feeling or retching.

Age and Sex Demographics: Primarily occurs in infants and young children but can occur at any age. The disorder is not strongly associated with any particular gender.

Health Concerns and Risks: Malnutrition, weight loss, and electrolyte imbalance are potential risks, along with dental erosion and bad breath.

Treatment and Recovery Options: Treatment often includes behavioral therapy and sometimes medications to control symptoms. However, the key part of management is identifying and modifying the behaviors leading to the regurgitation.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Avoidant restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is not just picky eating; it is an eating or feeding disorder characterized by the persistent refusal to eat specific foods or types of food, leading to nutritional deficiency.

Common Signs: Extreme selectivity in the types of food consumed, avoiding whole food groups, and a severe lack of interest in eating.

Common Symptoms: Rapid weight loss or failure to gain weight in growing children, nutritional deficiencies, and a dependency on nutritional supplements.

Age and Sex Demographics: Primarily observed in children but can continue into adulthood. There is a slightly higher prevalence in males than females.

Health Concerns and Risks: The disorder can lead to severe malnutrition, growth delay in children, and significant psychosocial impairment.

Treatment and Recovery Options: Treatment may include nutritional rehabilitation plans supervised by healthcare providers and psychoeducation. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is also a common treatment route.


Orthorexia is a relatively new term for an obsession with healthy or “clean” eating. It becomes a health detriment, interfering with the individual’s quality of life.

Common Signs: Compulsive checking of food labels, rigid avoidance of foods considered “unhealthy,” and obsessive following of food and health blogs.

Common Symptoms: Anxiety or distress over food choices, preoccupation with meal planning, and feelings of superiority about one’s diet.

Age and Sex Demographics: While it can occur at any age, it is often more common in adults. Both sexes are affected, although it is slightly more common among women.

Health Concerns and Risks: Malnutrition, social isolation, and an increased risk of mental disorders like anxiety and depression.

Treatment and Recovery Options: Treatment often involves a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers, including nutritionists and psychologists. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly employed.

Other Eating Disorders

Several lesser-known eating disorders like Night Eating Syndrome and Selective Eating Disorder, among others.

Common Signs: Varied but often include unusual eating habits, rituals around food, and extreme emotions around eating.

Causes of Eating Disorders

Common Symptoms: These also vary widely, from secretive eating to ritualistic food behaviors.

Age and Sex Demographics: Most of these disorders occur in males and females and can begin at any age, although adolescence is a common starting point.

Health Concerns and Risks: Like more commonly recognized eating disorders, these can lead to malnutrition, social isolation, and increased susceptibility to mental health disorders.

Treatment and Recovery Options: Treatment is tailored to the individual disorder and usually involves a healthcare team comprising various specialties. Behavioral therapy and medication are commonly used methods.

The causes of eating disorders are complex and multifactorial, often arising from a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Body image plays a significant role, with societal pressures to attain a particular body shape or size driving some individuals toward disordered eating. This can be further fueled by exposure to idealized images in media and an intense fear of gaining weight or changing body shape.

Certain groups of people are at higher risk for developing eating disorders, including adolescents, athletes, and those with a family history of mental health issues. Other risk factors include experiencing trauma, high levels of stress, or belonging to cultural groups where thinness is highly valued.

It’s crucial to understand that while these factors might contribute, they are not the sole cause. Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, or background.

Cognitive factors such as low self-esteem, perfectionism, and body dissatisfaction can also act as triggers, leading individuals down a dangerous path of distorted body image and unhealthy eating habits.

Biological factors, including hormonal imbalances and genetic predispositions, may also play a role. Some studies indicate that eating disorders have a genetic component, making individuals with a family history more susceptible. However, genetics alone don’t explain the onset; environmental triggers are usually involved.

The nuanced nature of these causes makes it challenging to pinpoint a single reason why someone may develop an eating disorder. However, understanding the various contributing factors can aid in early identification and intervention, which is crucial for eating disorder recovery.

Diagnosing Eating Disorders and Mental Disorders

Eating disorders often co-occur with mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This makes diagnosis and treatment a bit more complicated, as both the eating disorder symptoms and mental health symptoms need to be addressed for effective treatment and recovery. A comprehensive assessment usually involves physical examinations, mental health evaluations, and diagnostic tests to rule out other underlying issues.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. If you suspect you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s essential to consult with healthcare professionals for a full evaluation. This evaluation usually involves a team of experts, including psychologists, dietitians, and medical doctors, who can provide a well-rounded view and create an individualized treatment plan.

Further complicating the diagnostic process is the fact that symptoms of eating disorders can often mask or exacerbate the symptoms of other mental disorders and vice versa. For example, the fatigue and lack of concentration associated with depression could be mistaken as side effects of severe weight loss from an eating disorder. Additionally, the secrecy and shame often surrounding eating disorders can make individuals less likely to seek help, delaying diagnosis and treatment.

Assessment tools like questionnaires and interviews can help professionals get a clearer picture of the disorder’s impact on an individual’s daily life, which is crucial for diagnosis. Medical tests such as blood tests, bone density scans, and heart checks may also be necessary to evaluate the physical toll the disorder has taken on the body. Psychological assessments, including discussions about eating habits, thought patterns, and emotional well-being, are also crucial to the diagnostic process.

In some cases, a person may have more than one type of eating disorder, or their symptoms may not meet the full criteria for diagnosis but are nonetheless distressing and disruptive. This condition is known as “Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder” (OSFED), and it requires specialized treatment like any other diagnosed eating disorder.

All these complexities highlight the importance of multidisciplinary care in diagnosing and treating eating disorders and accompanying mental health conditions. Individuals can only get the targeted help they need for recovery through a comprehensive approach.


Eating Disorder Treatments

Treatment for eating disorders is as varied as the types of disorders themselves and often involves a multidisciplinary approach. The mainstay of treatment is usually a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional education, and sometimes medication.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often effective for conditions like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. On the other hand, medications like antidepressants can be useful in treating underlying mental disorders that may contribute to the eating disorder. Nutritional counseling helps individuals establish healthy eating habits and reverse the effects of malnutrition or weight gain.

Some eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder and rumination disorder, may require additional or alternative treatments like mindfulness training or medications that help control the impulse to eat. No one-size-fits-all treatment exists, and it often takes time to find the right mix of therapies that work for an individual.

Helping Someone Overcome an Eating Disorder

If you suspect someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, approaching the topic requires sensitivity, compassion, and care. Open the lines of communication, but avoid making accusatory or judgmental statements that could put the person on the defensive. Instead, express your concerns using “I” statements, like “I’m concerned about your health because I’ve noticed you’ve been skipping meals.”

However, it’s crucial to know what not to do. Avoid discussing food, weight, or body shape, as these topics can be triggering and counterproductive. Please don’t force them to lose weight or eat or prevent them from eating, as this could exacerbate their disorder. Eating disorders affect the lives of people both directly and indirectly.

Remember, you’re not a healthcare provider, and while your support is vital, professional help is often necessary for recovery from an eating disorder. Please encourage them to seek qualified medical advice for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treatment Options for Eating Disorders

Treatment for eating disorders typically involves a multi-pronged approach to address these complex conditions’ physical and psychological aspects. Over the years, various treatment modalities like psychotherapy, family-based treatments, and nutritional education have shown promising results.

However, it’s essential to note that the success of these treatments can vary from person to person. Some individuals may respond well to a particular treatment approach, while others may find it ineffective or even triggering, posing challenges to healthcare providers in offering personalized care.


Psychotherapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is often the cornerstone of eating disorder treatment. It helps individuals understand the thought patterns leading to disordered eating and equips them with coping mechanisms.

The numerous benefits include improved self-esteem and a healthier relationship with food.

However, one drawback could be that psychotherapy is often a long-term commitment and may be costly. Finding the right therapist can be a trial-and-error process, which can be discouraging.

Family Approach

Involving the family in treatment, especially for adolescents, can be extremely beneficial. The family approach aims to educate everyone about eating disorders to create a supportive environment.

Family members learn how to encourage healthy eating habits and avoid triggers.

However, this approach might only be suitable for some. In some cases, family dynamics could contribute to the eating disorder, and involving family in the immediate treatment could be counterproductive.

Nutritional Education

Nutritional education is crucial for teaching individuals about healthy eating habits, portion control, and the importance of balanced nutrition. Registered dietitians often play a role in this education, providing practical tools like meal plans.

The benefits are straightforward: better physical health and a less distorted view of food. However, more than nutritional education is needed for long-term recovery by addressing the underlying psychological issues.

Also, the “dos and don’ts” could become new rules for those with obsessive tendencies, complicating their relationship with food.


Pharmacotherapy can be a supplementary line of treatment for eating disorders. For example, antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for patients with bulimia nervosa to help manage symptoms of depression or anxiety that may coexist.

Antipsychotics may also be used for severe cases of anorexia nervosa. Medication can be particularly helpful for treating the comorbid mental disorders often accompanying eating disorders. However, medications come with their risks, including side effects like weight gain or loss, which can be triggering for those dealing with eating disorders.

Furthermore, medication alone seldom addresses the underlying issues and is most effective with other treatments like psychotherapy.

Stepped Care Programs

Stepped care programs are tailored treatment plans that evolve according to the patient’s needs. Initially starting with less intensive treatments like outpatient therapy, the program intensifies to include more comprehensive approaches if no progress is observed.

This flexible model allows for personalized, adaptive care and is often more cost-effective. However, the risk lies in potentially underestimating the severity of the condition at the outset, leading to inadequate initial treatment. Some individuals may also find the escalation in treatment levels stressful.

Getting Professional Care

Seeking professional help is a crucial step towards recovery from an eating disorder. Professionals in the field have the expertise to diagnose and treat these complex issues accurately.

They offer a range of treatment options, from psychotherapy to medication and nutritional education, to provide comprehensive care. The benefits of professional care are multi-fold: faster diagnosis, tailored treatment plans, and a supportive environment for recovery.

Numerous success stories attest to the effectiveness of professional intervention. For instance, many people who have undergone Cognitive Behavioral Therapy report significant improvements in their eating habits and overall mental well-being.

Others who have been part of family-based treatment programs have seen their entire family dynamic shift towards more supportive and understanding relationships. Thus, professional care provides hope and a viable pathway to recovery.


Here are some frequently asked questions to help clarify common concerns about eating disorders.

What is an eating disorder, and give some examples?

As the name suggests, eating disorders are mental conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect physical or mental health. Examples include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

What are three examples of disordered eating?

Examples of disordered eating include chronic dieting, excessive exercising specifically to prevent weight gain, and skipping meals regularly.

What is an eating disorder described as?

An eating disorder is generally described as a preoccupation with food, body weight, and shape, leading to dangerous and unhealthy eating behaviors and thought patterns.

What is most associated with eating disorders?

Eating disorders are most often associated with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as a distorted body image.

Types of Eating Disorders Summary

Like any other illness, eating disorders can have devastating effects on the quality of life of an individual. All parties involved must attempt to manage the disorder while keeping the affected person’s best interest and emotions at heart.

Eating disorders are manageable, and in a world where perfection is exaggerated on social media, we should all watch out for the tell-tale signs and symptoms of sickness in ourselves and those around us. Reach out to professionals today to kickstart your recovery journey.

The Main Sources of Workplace Conflict

Every employee will experience workplace conflict at some point in their career. To be more exact, 85% of employees will experience some kind of workplace conflict one way or another, according to a CPP Global Human Capital Report. The study, conducted in 2008, counted on 5,000 employees in nine countries over Europe and the Americas.

There’s a reason as to why this number is so high: it’s impossible to escape conflict, especially in the workplace. Disagreements will happen for a number of reasons, ranging from miscommunication to mismanagement. Gladly, a lot of these conflicts are minor and can be easily resolved.

However, when eventual misunderstandings are left unattended, they may snowball into conflicts that are hard to settle. In fact, the same report from CPP states that unresolved workplace conflict could cost companies as much as $359 billion. This result comes from the paid hours U.S. employees spent dealing with conflict on a weekly basis.

When seemingly unimportant issues grow into conflicts, they affect employee productivity and business goals in the long run. And, since avoiding conflict is out of the question, leaders should be aware of the common sources of trouble so as to prevent them from surfacing.

In this article, we’ll go over the main sources of workplace conflict, and how to stifle them before they become bigger issues.

Poor Communication

A lack of proper communication is one of the main causes of conflict in any relationship, particularly in the workplace.

It’s common to blame poor communication on management, when in reality, it can come from all sides. A lack of clarity plays a huge role in miscommunication, and comments out of context can contribute to the spread of dishonest messages.

Even though employees may also partake in poor communication, management should take the lead when it comes to full transparency. It’s up to them to make sure employees feel psychologically safe enough to approach them with minor and major clarifications. Without Psychological Safety, teams will nod “yes,” even when they’re filled with doubt.

Besides, managers must ensure every team member is on the same page. This requires explaining instructions clearly, and avoiding leaving employees to their own devices. There’s a certain curse of knowledge at play, so they must take a step back and ensure they’re concise in their explanations. Leaving employees to figure things out between themselves is the recipe for conflict.

As a supervisor, try to be as clear as possible and don’t make room for guessing. As a principle of Psychological Safety, always listen to your team members’ concerns and new ideas without judgement.

Unrealistic Expectations

We all want our organisations to thrive, hence we may set fierce goals every now and again. Yet, in doing so, some employers may forget about the most important leadership skill: empathy.

They may forget they’re working with humans, and that these humans are much more than mere “doers.” Although it’s possible for employees to meet certain unrealistic expectations at work, they’ll do so in detriment to their physical and mental health.

According to the team at Robert Half Talent Solutions, “whilst you may think that setting super-ambitious goals can help your team achieve more than if a much lower target was set, it may in reality have a far-reaching effect on your employees and your overall business success.”

A common example of setting unrealistic expectations is setting work hours that compromise employees’ household or childcare responsibilities. To you, seeing employees drown in work and caffeine may create an atmosphere of hard work and productivity. However, trying to understand what goes on in the background can prevent you from unconsciously ignoring employees’ needs.

Are you setting sky-high expectations for your workers?

Do you know what they’re giving up to be at the office?

Are you giving them enough time to take care of themselves? Because if you aren’t, their minds and bodies will need a break, sooner or later. And that break comes in the form of absenteeism, unproductivity, and even resignation.

So, why not support them, instead of pressuring them?

Communicate with them with an open heart. Ask them what they need, and whether you’re meeting those needs. Mentor them, if they need it. More than a supervisor, be a partner they can trust.

Speaking of which…

Poor Management

You may be familiar with the following quote: “People don’t leave organisations, they leave managers.”

Bad management is expensive. The number one reason rushing people to leave organisations is their immediate supervisors – which is no secret to anyone who’s had to deal with a terrible manager.

As stated by Graziadio Business Review, “if decreased productivity and increased turnover aren’t reasons enough to stop the practice of having bad managers, consider this: bad managers lead to increased stress, major health issues, and even death.”

The first step to put an end to unhealthy management is simple: admit and accept that bad management is a “thing” in your organisation. There’s a tendency to blame employees for a lack of productivity when bad management may be the culprit.

The second step is to stop hiring bad managers. That’s why we advocate for psychometric tests during recruitment: it provides a data-driven approach to hiring. Not only will you be able to predict a candidate’s behaviour in the workplace, but also get an educated sense for their true skills and personality.

As Mark Allen, PhD puts it, management careers should be carefully considered, as should any other career. “Would you ever hire an engineer who had no education, experience, or aptitude for engineering? Of course not. Would you ever hire a manager who had no education, experience, or aptitude for management? We do it all the time,” he says.

Personality Clashes Among Coworkers

A 2021 study by My Perfect Resume found that 65% of employees experienced conflict with their coworkers, specifically. It’s not hard to imagine why that happens: employees of every organisation come from different cultures, backgrounds, and have distinct beliefs and personalities. In this case, personality clashes are difficult to dodge.

As much as it’s impossible to avoid conflict in the workplace, it’s impossible to expect all coworkers to be friends. Yet, although they may not like each other, mutual respect and impartial collaboration remains essential.

All team members should be sensible enough to respect each others’ differences – hence the importance of hiring employees who are capable of working in a team.

Besides, it’s a manager’s responsibility to introduce and reinforce a healthy company culture to their employees. Problems will come up – but when a well-established culture and the right employees come together, those issues become a lot easier to settle.

A Lack of Clarity

“Nobody told me that.”

“That’s not what I was told.”

“Where did you hear that?”

These are three of the most common phrases you’ll hear if your organisation has a problem with clarity. When clarity lacks, it makes everything feel like a telephone game: the initial message becomes distorted, and no one knows what the real takeaway is. Combined with a lack of communication, this can result in conflict that’s hard to resolve.

If job descriptions and roles are unclear, so are tasks. When people have no idea what they should be doing, they won’t put as much effort into it. After all, they could be doing it wrong. Or worse, they could be working on a task someone else should be completing. See how it all can get really messy, really fast?​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

If supervisors could be allies and make job descriptions as clear as possible, clarity-related trouble would diminish. Again, don’t make room for guessing or wondering.

Help employees feel safe when asking questions, and offer regular training sessions. This way, they’ll understand their roles and responsibilities, and feel more confident when performing them.

If You Can’t Prevent Conflict, Make It Easier to Resolve

Workplace conflict will always exist. Instead of running from it, leaders must be prepared to deal with them as soon as they come up.

Even something such as gossip can mean trouble if it’s not immediately resolved. As petty as certain issues may seem, leaving them on the back burner could leave them heating up to the point of explosion. Don’t let it reach that point.

How much do you know about mental health?