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Understanding the Less Common Types of Eating Disorders

written by: Nichole Bolton • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 11/20/2010

Eating disorders are characterized by unusual eating patterns, such as bingeing, purging and fasting. Though many people have heard of anorexia and bulimia, there are lesser known eating disorders that can be just as damaging to one’s health. Learn to recognize these disorders and their symptoms.

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    Orthorexia Nervosa

    Orthorexia nervosa is one of the lesser known eating disorders which causes people to become obsessed with eating pure, healthy foods. People may develop this uncommon eating disorder after spending a period of time on a diet, either for weight loss or health effects. They measure and weigh foods and only eat "clean" foods with no additives. People with Orthorexia Nervosa also tend to keep track of everything they eat in a food journal.

    While healthy at first, this may turn into an unhealthy obsession which causes them to focus so much on eating "perfectly" that they have no time for other parts of their lives. When people with Orthorexia Nervosa eat something they consider to be unhealthy, they may feel extreme anxiety and shame, and punish themselves by eating even stricter diets or even fasting.

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    Night Eating Syndrome

    Night eating syndrome is an uncommon eating disorder which causes individuals to fast throughout the day, become very hungry at night and binge on large amounts of food instead of sleeping. People with night eating syndrome often have trouble falling asleep and may awaken to eat throughout the night. These bouts of bingeing usually lead to feelings of stress and shame, causing the person to repeat the cycle each day. Gaining a proper understanding of healthy eating and skipping the fasting period can help to reduce evening hunger in people with this eating disorder. Psychological treatment may also be necessary to treat the underlying emotional problems that produce the urge to binge.

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    Bigorexia

    Another lesser known eating disorder is "Bigorexia". It is a term describing the condition where individuals feel that they are never big enough and strive to gain extreme amounts of muscle mass. People with this eating disorder may be more likely to take muscle-building drugs that could cause organ damage.

    Symptoms of Bigorexia include, spending hours lifting weights and obsessing over diet, missing important social events to work out and avoiding situations where the body is on show (i.e. the beach) out of fear that they are too small.

    This uncommon eating disorder can cause overtraining of muscles which can lead to long term muscular damage. The use of steroids and other muscle enhancing drugs raises the risk of organ damage and kidney failure.

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    Compulsive Exercise

    WeightStack Compulsive exercise, or anorexia athletica, is not an eating disorder per se, but it may go hand-in-hand with eating disorders. It is an addiction to exercising in which the person feels they must exercise for hours each day. Compulsive exercisers do not enjoy working out, but they can't miss one work out without feeling extreme anxiety and guilt. People with anorexia athletica will exercise for hours on end even if they have an injury or illness.

    Symptoms of this disorder include exercising for many hours each day, obsession with diet and weight and always striving to reach a higher level of physical fitness. People suffering from compulsive exercise do not have much time in their lives for activities other than exercising, and may be withdrawn from society in an attempt to keep in perfect shape. This disorder can lead to muscle strains and damage, fractures, fatigue and weakened immune systems.

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    References

    Something Fishy: Other Types of Eating Disorders

    Eating Disorders Online: Types of Eating Disorders

    Picture credit - image released under GNU Free Documentation License

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