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Eating Disorders

Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are problems with the way people eat. They can harm a person's health, emotions, and relationships

What Are the Different Types of Eating Disorders?

There are several types of eating disorders, including:


People with anorexia:

  • eat very little on purpose. This leads to a very low body weight.
  • have an intense fear of weight gain
  • have a distorted body image. They have unrealistic views of their bodies.

People with anorexia are very strict about what and how much they will eat. They may think about food or calories almost all the time. To lose weight, some people with anorexia might fast or exercise too much. Others may use laxatives, diuretics (water pills), or enemas.


People with bulimia:

  • overeat and feel out of control to stop (binge eat)
  • do things to make up make up for overeating. They may make themselves throw up on purpose after they overeat. To prevent weight gain they may use laxatives, diuretics, weight loss pills, fast, or exercise a lot.
  • judge themselves based on body shape and weight

People with bulimia may have yo-yo weight changes, up or down. But not all people with bulimia have significant weight changes.

Binge Eating

People with binge eating disorder:

  • overeat and feel out of control to stop. This is called binge eating.
  • eat large amounts even when they are not hungry
  • may feel upset or guilty after binge eating
  • often gain weight, and may become very overweight

Many people with binge eating disorder eat faster than normal. They may eat alone so others don't see how much they are eating. Unlike people with bulimia, those with binge eating disorder do not make themselves throw up, use laxatives, or exercise a lot to make up for overeating.


People with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID):

  • are not interested in food or avoid foods
  • lose weight, or don't gain expected amount of weight
  • are not afraid of gaining weight
  • don't have a poor body image

Often, people with ARFID don't eat because they are turned off by the smell, taste, texture, or color of food. Some may have choked on food and they are afraid it may happen again. Many kids with ARFID are underweight. But others are normal weight or overweight, especially if they eat only junk food.

  • Understanding Your Child's Eating Disorder

    Understanding Your Child's Eating Disorder

    Learn more about what an eating disorder is, how it's treated, and ways parents can support their child on the path to recovery.

What if My Child Has an Eating Disorder?

If you think your child has an eating disorder:

Get help early. When an eating disorder is caught early, a person has a better chance of recovery. Make an appointment with your child's doctor or an eating disorders specialist.

Talk to your child about your concerns. Be calm, direct, and caring. Let them know you will help. Ask them to tell you what it's like for them.

Go to all medical and care visits. Treatment takes time and effort. Work with the care team to get the help your child needs. Ask questions any time you have them.

Be patient and supportive. Learn what you can do to help your child. Try to keep your relationship with your child strong and positive. Make time to listen, talk, and do things that you both enjoy.

Focus on a healthy lifestyle. Encourage everyone in your family to be active every day and eat a varied diet.

You also can find support and more information online at:

  • Meal Support for Eating Disorders

    Meal Support for Eating Disorders

    Support your child during treatment for an eating disorder by learning ways to make mealtimes more manageable.

Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2021