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Understanding Eating Disorders: Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Home > Blogs > Understanding Eating Disorders: Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Understanding Eating Disorders: Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Psychiatry | by Mrs. Aparna Ladha Somani | Published on 25/10/2023


Did you know that eating disorders are affecting millions of people, capping age, gender, and cultural confines? Well, yes, that’s true. We live in a world captivated by societal beauty standards and appearances, that no one pays attention to this soundless pandemic looming in the shadows. This topic really requires consideration, understanding, and most importantly, empathy. 

Eating disorders are not simply about food, it is a contemplation of deep psychological battle, emotional upheaval, and societal pressures. In this blog, we will provide a deep understanding of these disorders, and help you understand the signs, causes, and treatment options. If you suspect that you might be suffering from eating disorders, make sure to book your appointment with one of the renowned healthcare services, The Calcutta Medical Research Institute in Kolkata. You will find the most professional and experienced healthcare experts who will ensure proper diagnosis and treatment that’s suitable for you. 

Please note that the information given in this blog is entirely research-based and we do not encourage neglecting consultation with a healthcare professional in any way. 

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are one of the grave, intricate, and mental health problems affecting the emotional well-being and physical health of a person. People who have this disorder develop an unhealthy association with food, weight, and the way they look. If this disorder is not treated on time, it leads to developing life-threatening issues. Eating disorders can impair several organs of the body such as bones, teeth, mouth, heart, and digestive system. They are also linked to other diseases and mental health issues like anxiety, self-harm, depression, etc. With the right treatment, one can go back to their regular eating habits and discover ways to healthier life. Treatment on time can help in reducing or reversing severe issues caused by this condition.

What are the types of Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are divided into three types. Some people might suffer from one type, while some may have only one type of eating disorder. Here are the types:

  • Anorexia nervosa: People who have this disorder hugely limit food and calories. They even put themselves in starvation mode. It is identified by an obsessive wish to lose weight. 
  • Bulimia nervosa: People suffering from this type are into binge eating. They tend to eat huge amounts of food within a short period and later push themselves to disgorge the calories through vomiting, laxatives, or rigorous exercises to dump the food and calories. 
  • Binge eating disorder: This type is interlinked with compulsive eating behaviors. People suffering from this type keep eating and believe that they have eaten a huge quantity of food within a short period. However, they don’t disgorge food or burn calories, but they always feel discomfort and battle with disgrace, lament, or depression. 

What are Eating Disorders Symptoms?

Eating disorder symptoms might vary depending on its type. It is complex to find an eating disorder as usually it is misunderstood as dieting. People battling with eating disorders restrict themselves from sharing their eating habits or problems. Here are common symptoms of eating disorders that should not be overlooked:

  • Regular washroom breaks after eating 
  • Irregular hot flashes and sweating 
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Weight loss 
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Mood swings 

Here are other unusual symptoms that reflect an eating disorder:

  • Habit of hiding 
  • Throwing away food 
  • Dining alone or not wishing to eat with other people
  • Food fixation
  • Food rituals like chewing food for long periods
  • Retreating from social activities or friends

What are Eating Disorders Causes?

Eating disorders are related to intricate mental health conditions having several causes. They are often an outcome of different factors such as environmental, biological, and psychological. Eating disorder causes might depend from person to person, however, here are some of the common factors that are linked with this condition:

  • Biological factors: It involves genetics and brain chemistry. As per research, people who have a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop this condition. Secondly, when there are some neurotransmitter imbalances, it leads to eating disorders.
  • Psychological factors: People who suffer from body image and self-esteem issues are also prone to eating disorders. Also, people having the desire for perfectionism engage themselves in dieting or overeating. 
  • Environmental factors: It involves societal pressures, peer pressure, trauma, abuse, and dysfunctional family environments. 
  • Dieting and weight control: People who are obsessed with losing weight might involve themselves in regular dieting and eating patterns that are disordered. 

How are eating disorders diagnosed?

Healthcare professionals initiate eating disorders diagnosed depending on their symptoms and review eating patterns including behaviors. It is recommended to consult a general physician and mental health expert to confirm the diagnosis. Here is how eating disorders are diagnosed:

  • Physical assessment: The doctor usually starts with assessing the physical conditions like medical causes for eating problems. The doctor might recommend lab tests as per the findings. 
  • Mental health evaluation: The professional tries to comprehend the mental state of a patient and asks about their feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and eating habits. Some questions are also asked so that it can help the expert to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Other studies: The doctor might recommend blood tests as well to rule out any other underlying conditions and to identify any complications linked to eating problems.

What are the options for eating disorder treatment?

Eating disorders treatment depends on the type and particular needs of the patient. Even, when a person is not diagnosed with this condition, healthcare professionals can help in addressing and managing food-related problems. Here are some of the options usually involved in treating eating disorders:

  • Psychotherapy: A mental healthcare expert ensures determining the finest psychotherapy for every patient. Usually, doctors involve cognitive behavioral therapy as it assists in understanding and changing the twisted patterns driving food-eating behaviors and emotions.
  • Maudsley approach: It is a therapy that assists teenage parents with anorexia. Parents vigorously can instruct their children's eating behaviors while they are learning to get into healthy habits. 
  • Medications: Some people might have other conditions along with eating disorders such as anxiety, or depression. Hence, medications like antidepressants or other medicines can help in improving the condition. 
  • Nutrition counseling: A certified nutritionist with training in eating disorders can assist in improving eating behaviors and habits. He/she can also help in developing nutritious meal plans. The expert can provide tips for meal planning, preparation, and even grocery shopping.


Eating disorders are the reflection of mental health conditions affecting people of all age groups and genders. It is important to comprehend and address the problem with kindness, understanding, and helpful treatment. One must know that this condition is merely not about weight and food, but a way to deal with issues like psychological, emotional, and environmental. So, prompt medical attention is required to treat the problem. Education and raising awareness play an important role as we can help people battling eating disorders and give them the support they need. All we need to know is recovery is possible with proper guidance and treatment options.



Do I have an eating disorder?

It is important to look for signs like mood swings, habits of hiding food, not eating with our friends and family, solo dining, food fixations, etc. If you notice any of these, it means you have an eating disorder. However, without proper diagnosis it is hard to tell, so make sure to get in touch with a doctor. 

How to control eating disorders?

Getting in touch with a healthcare professional is always the best idea to cure eating disorders. They might recommend options like psychotherapy, medications, nutrition counseling, etc. 

Are eating disorders a disability?

Eating disorders are not a disability but a behavioral condition determined by different eating patterns.