Eating Disorder: Causes, Types And Symptoms

Let's Talk about Eating Disorders

How would you feel when you deliberately puke out everything that you ate within a few hours? Or how about skipping meals for days and literally starving? Hearing about these hypothetical circumstances may make you feel uncomfortable and doubtful about their authenticity. What would your response be if you found people displaying these behaviours quite often? The descriptions mentioned above match the symptoms or behavioural manifestations of a few among the many eating disorders.

Eating disorders, as defined by the American Psychological Association, are disorders that are characterized by pathological disturbance in terms of food-related attitudes and behaviours. Some of the most common forms of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, pica etc.


There is no exact factor that provokes the development of eating disorders in an individual. It mostly could occur in an individual due to any of the following reasons:

  1. Genes: Certain people possess genetic factors that may increase their vulnerability towards developing eating disorders.
  2. Family History: Having people who have developed or are still suffering from any of the eating disorders may cause the individual to be prone to eating disorders.
  3. Trauma and other Mental Disorders: Many mental disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder etc., may become reasons for increasing one’s vulnerability towards developing eating disorders.
  4. Bullying: Bullying, especially body-shaming involving weight bullying is one of the most important causes of eating disorders, mainly among teenagers and adolescents. Being highly conscious about one’s body, skin, weight, and the subsequent unhealthy emphasis on dieting can take a toll on one’s mental health. Eating disorder, thus, is one of the most extreme consequences of the same. Adolescents may also develop the disorder because of their need to gain control over situations and they may find their eating habits as the only platform for them to exert control over.
Types of Eating Disorders
1. Anorexia Nervosa

A form of eating disorder that leads to low nutrition intake and henceforth, results in severe weight loss. This occurs due to their predispositions about their weight and body image. These people tend to nurture a distorted body image about themselves and constantly worry about their weight. This leads them to consume extremely low-calorie diets or even starve for days. The distorted body image that they may carry puts them in a fear of gaining weight. This makes them unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

Studies have shown that adolescent females suffer from anorexia nervosa than adolescent males. This again points to societal conditioning that people receive about the ideal standard of beauty, which if not attained, makes them vulnerable to body-shaming. These people may tend to attach the idea of thin bodies with increased self-esteem. One associates controlling portions with a feeling of power and control over one’s life.


Extreme weight loss, thin appearance, abnormal blood counts, fatigue, insomnia, dizziness or fainting, bluish discolouration of fingernails, stomach cramps, menstrual irregularities like amenorrhea, dental problems, such as enamel erosion, cavities, and tooth sensitivity etc are some of the physiological consequences of anorexia nervosa. Similarly, people who are anorexic also display behavioural symptoms like restricting food intake through dieting, exercising excessively, making excuses for not eating, eating only a few “safe” foods, usually those low in fat, lying about the quantity of food eaten, not wanting to eat in public etc.

2. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is another life-threatening eating disorder that involves people binge-eating large amounts of food followed by deliberate purging out mostly using laxatives etc. The purging helps them to get rid of the extra calories in a very unhealthy way. Bulimia nervosa is yet another eating disorder that is connected to the fear of gaining weight due to occupied distorted body image. To prevent weight gain and to remove the extra calories from one’s body after a session of binge eating, people with bulimia may undertake various methods like the usage of laxatives, self-induction of vomiting, enemas, diuretics etc.


People with bulimia nervosa tend to develop and exhibit problematic behaviours. These include excessive distress about weight gain, consuming large unhealthy quantities of food in one sitting, and engaging in binge eating sessions followed by strict dieting or fasting. They also experience a distorted body image, similar to those affected by anorexia nervosa. They may also develop physical symptoms like having sores, scars on the knuckles or hands, damaged teeth and gums, changing weight, swelling in the hands and feet, facial and cheek swelling from enlarged glands etc

3. Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder or ARFID, is a very recently defined eating disorder that involves symptoms similar to that of anorexia nervosa. ARFID involves limitations in the amount of food, especially calories consumed by the individual. The person remains an extremely picky eater and the disorder was earlier, hence called selective eating disorder. A person with ARFID does not eat enough calories that may aid in his or her proper development. But unlike anorexia, people with ARFID do not stress over their body image or body weight.


Some of the physiological symptoms of ARFID apart from weight loss and low nutrition are stomach cramps and irregularities in menstruation, thinning of hair, brittle nails, sleeping problems, concentration difficulties, fainting, feeling cold all the time, impaired immunity, poor wound healing etc.


Eating disorders are not life-long incurable illnesses rather, with accurate diagnosis at the right time and adequate exposure to various suitable forms of therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation involving therapies, family therapies etc, they are highly manageable. If people are found with extreme levels of eating disorders, they can also be subjected to in-patient treatments in hospitals along with proper doses of prescribed medications. But as a baby step, parents, family members and even teachers should always watch out for those teenagers and adolescents who have been long labelled as picky eaters to identify probable symptoms of these disorders.

Exit mobile version