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What are the different types of eating disorders?

There are many different types of eating disorders, each with its own unique set of challenges in treatment. However, the most important thing to remember is that all types of eating disorders are treatable. And it’s never too late to get help.

Eating disorders are behavioral conditions marked by disturbances in a person’s relationship to eating, food, and/or their body that affect at least 9% of the population worldwide. These conditions can impact physical, psychological, and social function in varied and severe ways.1,2

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Among the deadliest of mental illnesses, eating disorders are responsible for over 10,000 deaths each year, but in a vast majority of cases full remission is completely possible with early intervention.1

 minute read
Last updated on 
November 6, 2023
June 3, 2024
In this article
prevalence of eating disorders graphic

Types of Eating Disorders in the DSM-5

Help and healing start with knowledge. Below is a list and brief description of some of the most widely recognized and common types of eating disorders.

It is important to remember that diagnostic criteria that define different types of eating disorders are imperfect and limited.

Some people may meet the criteria for more than one eating disorder, and others may have serious, disruptive, and dangerous eating disorders that are not easily classified into any of these categories.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition lists 8 distinct feeding and eating disorders. These include the following:

  1. Anorexia nervosa
  2. Bulimia nervosa
  3. Binge-eating disorder
  4. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
  5. Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)
  6. Unspecified feeding or eating disorder (UFED)
  7. Pica
  8. Rumination

Additional information to note:

  • ARFID is also referenced as Selective Eating Disorder (SED) in the DSM-5. The terms are often used interchangeably to describe an avoidance or restrictive pattern of eating.
  • There are also subtypes or severity levels listed in the DSM-5 based on meeting certain diagnostic criteria.
  • In addition to all the eating disorders listed in the DSM-5, there are other terms that are used commonly to describe feeding and eating-related issues.

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Anorexia nervosa (AN)

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder defined by the restriction of nutrients and energy relative to the needs of an individual. Individuals who experience AN often present with intense fear or worry about gaining weight and will attempt to avoid it through various behaviors, such as:3

  • Not eating
  • Exercising too much
  • Purging
  • Overusing laxatives

While previous definitions of AN often included specific weight or weight loss criteria, it is now understood that people of all body sizes may struggle with this eating disorder. Due to genetic variation in how different people’s bodies respond to restriction, some people will lose weight while struggling with AN but not reach a “markedly low body weight,” and other people will lose little to no weight but will experience other symptoms of malnutrition.3

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Atypical anorexia nervosa (AAN)

Atypical anorexia nervosa is a term that's been used to diagnose AN in people who are not at an extremely low body weight. However, this eating disorder definition has become misleading as research on AN has continued, finding not all people with the condition present at “significantly” low weights.

Similar to anorexia nervosa, body image distortion is also common in people with atypical anorexia. Individuals may perceive their bodies in a way that varies significantly from their actual bodies. This may involve a consistently inaccurate perception of their body size and shape or an inconsistent perception that shifts dramatically even if no actual body changes have occurred. A preoccupation with food and calories resulting in rules that restrict intake is common as well. AAN sufferers may also avoid eating in public.

Due to stereotypes associating anorexia nervosa with thinness and the influence of weight bias in cultural and medical environments, individuals with this type of eating disorder often experience delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, prolonging medical complications and making treatment more difficult to access.

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Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), ARFID is a disruption in eating or feeding due to a lack of interest in food, a sensitivity to the sensory characteristics of food (i.e., textures, appearance, flavor), or a conditioned negative association with food intake caused by a traumatic experience such as vomiting or choking. This disruption is highlighted by a deficit in nutritional and energy needs and can result in one or more of the following:5

  • Undernutrition, which in some cases causes weight loss or lack of growth in children.
  • Significant nutritional deficiency.
  • Psychosocial functioning impairment.
  • Dependency on tube feeding or supplements for nutrition. 

While sharing similar characteristics to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, this type of eating disorder is unique, as the avoidance and restriction of food is not motivated by body image concerns. A person with ARFID will avoid eating due to an aversion to food, fears of immediate harm occurring from eating certain foods, or a general disinterest in food.6

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What is ARFID?


Binge eating disorder (BED)

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that is more prevalent in the United States than anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.13 This type of eating disorder consists of episodes of eating large amounts of food in a short amount of time, typically under two hours. Unlike BN, BED is not followed by compensatory behaviors such as purging behaviors or laxative abuse.

Binge eating is signified by at least three of the following:13

  • Eating at a more rapid pace than normal.
  • Eating beyond the feeling of satiety and into discomfort.
  • Eating large quantities of food without being physically hungry.
  • Guilt, shame, and depression brought on by overeating.
  • Embarrassment in relation to the amount of food causes solitary eating.

In order to meet diagnostic criteria, episodes of these eating habits must occur at least once a week for three months.13 Many people with BED experience a binge-restrict cycle in their relationship to food, and some individuals who meet the criteria for BED also have nutritional deficiencies  

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Bulimia nervosa (BN)

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by purging or compensating behaviors. The DSM-5 defines BN with the following criteria:11

  • Binge eating episodes:
    - Individuals eating portions significantly larger than most would consume in a similar amount of time and under commensurable circumstances.
    - Individuals feel out of control during these episodes and are unable to limit the servings consumed.
  • Purging and compensating behaviors, such as:
    - Self-induced vomiting (to purge food eaten)
    - Diuretic and laxative abuse
    - Fasting
    - Extreme exercise behaviors

In order to establish a diagnosis, a patient must fit this eating disorder definition and experience episodes of binge eating that occur at least once per week, for three consecutive months.12

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Atypical bulimia nervosa (ABN)

Atypical bulimia nervosa can have many of the symptoms of BN but does not meet all of the criteria for a BN diagnosis.

An individual experiencing ABN might have recurrent bouts of laxative abuse or binging, but the frequency with which they occur is lower than meets the threshold for a diagnosis of BN. Additionally, ABN may present without the concern for body image that is exhibited in BN.

Compulsive eating 

Compulsive or emotional eating describes the tendency to eat past the point of satiety in response to negative emotions. Major life events that elicit stress, anger, fear, sadness, or loneliness may trigger the use of eating as a way to self-soothe or suppress emotions even in the absence of hunger.14

Compulsive eating can present in different types of eating disorders, including in people who restrict their food intake at times and feel out of control around food at other times. This can lead to a binge-restrict cycle, which may not meet the specific criteria BED or BN but can be very distressing and disruptive.14


Diabulimia refers to individuals with type 1 diabetes mellitus who intentionally administer inadequate amounts of insulin with weight loss as the motivation. Although not on the official "eating disorder list" defined in the DSM 5, this type of eating disorder is extremely dangerous and is garnering an increased presence amongst individuals experiencing type 1 diabetes.8

Prior to a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, individuals may experience weight loss because of their deficiency in insulin. Once insulin treatments begin, rapid weight gain can be a common occurrence. Individuals with diabulimia may restrict or completely withhold insulin in an attempt to lose weight after they have been diagnosed.8

Severe adverse reactions to intentional insulin restriction are common and may include diabetic ketoacidosis, vision loss, and kidney damage. According to an eleven-year study, the restriction of insulin increased the risk of death by 3.2 times.9

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What is diabulimia?

Exercise addiction

Exercise addiction is marked by obsessive and immoderate exercise patterns that can lead to psychological and physical distress or harm.15

While some people, including professional athletes, may spend significant amounts of time exercising, those suffering from exercise addiction generally exhibit key differences in their motivation for exercise, response to fatigue and injury, and the amount of distress and disruption it causes in their lives.

Without the presence of exercise, someone with exercise addiction can experience a combination of withdrawal effects consisting of sleep disruption, anxiety, and restlessness.

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Night eating syndrome

Night eating syndrome (NES) is an eating disorder distinguished by a substantial amount of overall food intake occurring after dinner with two or more weekly nighttime sleep disruptions followed by food ingestion as a possible accompaniment.

Like many other conditions, it does not appear in the DSM 5's eating disorders section, though it is generally considered a version of other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED), the umbrella category for all undefined types of disordered eating behaviors.

Causes of NES still require further research but point to a desynchronization between food intake patterns and sleep patterns.17

Orthorexia nervosa

An increasing cultural concern with “healthy” foods and diets has resulted in greater prevalence and recognition of a type of eating disorder known as orthorexia nervosa (ON). While being interested in nutrition and striving to eat nutritious foods is not inherently pathological, individuals experiencing ON obsess over achieving what they perceive to be a “healthy” manner of eating, even to the detriment of their own physical and mental well-being.10

Some signs of orthorexia nervosa may include an increased focus on the health value of food, cutting out specific food groups, or feeling compelled to check nutrition labels while practicing restrictive eating. People with orthorexia may also spend a great deal of time thinking about food and how “healthy” or “unhealthy” certain food items are while experiencing an extreme fear of certain foods or overall distress around eating.

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What is orthorexia?

Pregnancy-related eating disorders

Pregorexia is a term that refers to an eating disorder in which a great fear of pregnancy-related weight gain exists. An individual with pregorexia will take measures to avoid the changes that occur to the human body during pregnancy, such as caloric intake restriction and excessive exercise.19

Pregorexia is a relatively new term, and there is much to be learned. It does not have a formal eating disorder definition in the DSM-5, so that diagnosis can be difficult, but if you or a loved one has concerns, it is highly recommended to seek help from a medical professional for the health of baby and parents alike.

Learn more
What is pregorexia?

Getting help for an eating disorder 

There are many different types of eating disorders that require thoughtful care and treatment in order to recover from them. At Within, our care team specializes in eating disorder treatment and recovery. We will meet you where you are in your healing and create a unique plan to meet your specific needs.

Our treatment program is virtual, so you can receive care and connect with your team from the comfort of your own home. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the types of eating disorders listed above, please reach out to our team today for help.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Arcelus, J., Mitchell, A. J., Wales, J., Nielsen, S. (2011). Mortality Rates in Patients With Anorexia Nervosa and Other Eating Disorders: A Meta-analysis of 36 Studies. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 68(7), 724–731.
  2. What are eating disorders? (2021, March). American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  3. Moore, C. A., Bokor, B. R. (2022). Anorexia Nervosa. StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  4. Mehler, P. (2022). Anorexia nervosa in adults and adolescents: Medical complications and their management. UpToDate. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  5. Thomas, J. J., Lawson, E. A., Micali, N., Misra, M., Deckersbach, T., & Eddy, K. T. (2017). Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: a Three-Dimensional Model of Neurobiology with Implications for Etiology and Treatment. Current Psychiatry Reports, 19(8), 54.
  6. Białek-Dratwa, A., Szymańska, D., Grajek, M., Krupa-Kotara, K., Szczepańska, E., & Kowalski, O. (2022). ARFID-Strategies for Dietary Management in Children. Nutrients, 14(9), 1739.
  7. Freizinger, M., Recto, M., Jhe, G., & Lin, J. (2022). Atypical Anorexia in Youth: Cautiously Bridging the Treatment Gap. Children (Basel, Switzerland), 9(6), 837.
  8. Coleman, S. E., & Caswell, N. (2020). Diabetes and eating disorders: an exploration of 'Diabulimia'. BMC Psychology, 8(1), 101.
  9. Goebel-Fabbri, A. E., Fikkan, J., Franko, D. L., Pearson, K., Anderson, B. J., & Weinger, K. (2008). Insulin restriction and associated morbidity and mortality in women with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 31(3), 415–419.
  10. Orthorexia. (2019, December 13). National Eating Disorders Association.
  11. Jain, A., Yilanli, M. (2022). Bulimia Nervosa. StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  12. Forney, K. J., Bodell, L. P., Haedt-Matt, A. A., Keel, P. K. (2016). Incremental validity of the episode size criterion in binge-eating definitions: An examination in women with purging syndromes. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49(7), 651-62.
  13. Sysko, R., Devlin, M. (2022, August 29). Binge eating disorder in adults: Overview of treatment. UpToDate.
  14. Manouchehr Saljoughian, P. D. (2021, February 12). Emotional eating and binge eating disorder. U.S. Pharmacist. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  15. Lichtenstein, M. B., Griffiths, M. D., Hemmingsen, S. D., & Støving, R. K. (2018). Exercise addiction in adolescents and emerging adults - Validation of a youth version of the Exercise Addiction Inventory. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 7(1), 117–125.
  16. Freimuth, M., Moniz, S., & Kim, S. R. (2011). Clarifying exercise addiction: differential diagnosis, co-occurring disorders, and phases of addiction. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(10), 4069–4081.
  17. Pinto, T. F., Silva, F. G., Bruin, V. M., & Bruin, P. F. (2016). Night eating syndrome: How to treat it? Revista da Associacao Medica Brasileira (1992), 62(7), 701–707.
  18. Gluck, M. E., Geliebter, A., & Satov, T. (2001). Night eating syndrome is associated with depression, low self-esteem, reduced daytime hunger, and less weight loss in obese outpatients. Obesity Research, 9(4), 264–267.
  19. Tuncer, E., Gumus, A., & Keser, A. (2020, January 14). The Importance of Pregorexia Awareness. Clinical and Experimental Health Sciences, 10, 186-190.
  20. Pregnancy and Eating Disorders. (2018, February 22). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  21. Eating Disorders. (n.d.). National Institutes of Health. Accessed October 2023. 


Is eating one meal a day an eating disorder?

There are many different types of eating disorders, including those not officially defined in the DSM-5. Many disordered behaviors fall under the umbrella term "other specified feeding or eating disorder" (OSFED).

Eating one meal a day may fall within this gray area. While the action is not an eating disorder in and of itself, it's indicative of the type of disordered thoughts and behaviors that often power eating disorders, especially if you're eating one meal a day intentionally to lose or control weight.

Is starving yourself an eating disorder?

Starving yourself on purpose is extremely dangerous behavior and very likely connected to an eating disorder, even if it's not one that has an eating disorder definition in the DSM.

If you or a loved one are intentionally starving yourself, you should seek out help as soon as possible.

What is disordered eating?

The technical eating disorder definition is a behavioral condition characterized by persistent and severe disturbances in eating behaviors and associated disturbed thoughts and emotions.2

Essentially, this means someone consistently struggles with eating or food, whether by eating more food than their body needs, not eating enough, or participating in unhealthy compensatory behaviors for the food they do eat.

These behaviors are driven by disturbed and distorted thoughts around body weight, shape, and image, with someone often acting in ways to prevent weight gain or control their weight actively. Many people with eating disorders also fixate on these subjects to the point of interfering with their everyday lives.

What are the most common eating disorders?

In the United States, binge eating disorder is widely considered the most common eating disorder. (21) Among those who struggle with eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa are also thought of as relatively common, though it's likely that OSFED is more common than these but not as frequently diagnosed due to its loose definition.

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Experiencing a significant loss, whether you lose a loved one, relationship, passion, job, or home, can...

What causes eating disorders?

When you or one of your loved ones is suffering from an eating disorder, it may be tempting to look for...

What are the different types of eating disorders?

There are many different types of eating disorders, each with its own unique set of challenges in treatment.

Diabetes and eating disorders

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Effects of eating disorders on your health

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