Orthorexia is a particular type of eating disorder that may have become more common with the rise of "healthy eating" as a visible, desirable lifestyle — but Instagram photos of green veg and smoothies may hide a more obsessive problem. Orthorexia, while currently not recognized as an eating disorder by the DSM, is beginning to be more widely noted as a variant on anorexia, where the focus isn't so much on losing weight, but on rigorously controlling your diet — in this context, making sure food is always "healthy" and free of impurities.
Pica is a strange-sounding but common eating disorder involving the consumption of substances that have no nutritional value at all and aren't recognized as food. Pica sufferers can eat anything from paint to dirt to chalk. It's characterized by cravings; it's pretty common in children under six, with a estimated 10 to 32 percent of them experiencing it at some point, and in pregnant women, who may crave minerals they need for the fetus.
However, it's not just confined to the very young or pregnant. Up to a quarter of all people in psychiatric institutions have pica, according to the Handbook Of Child Psychology, and in some cultures, a variety of pica called geophagia, which involves eating clay, is viewed as perfectly socially acceptable.
Another disorder that's not officially diagnosed but is creeping into wider consciousness is pregorexia, an unwieldy term for obsessive control over weight gain during pregnancy. A woman should gain about 35 pounds over the course of a natural, healthy pregnancy, and pregorexia is characterized by women who try to minimize that gain through diet and exercise, even at the cost of the fetus's health.
4. Anorexia Athletica
5. Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Telling somebody with body dysmorphic disorder that it's all in their heads isn't likely to help. Sufferers "see" their bodies as substantially different than they are in reality, often far fatter or even disfigured — and genuinely cannot compute the reality of the mirror as truth. It's classified less as an eating disorder and more as a compulsive behavior, as it's also characterized by obsessive traits like picking your skin or having "rituals" about your body.
6. Purging Disorder
Purging may sound familiar, but it's actually distinct from bulimia, which tends to follow a pattern of bingeing on food and then purging (making oneself vomit or void the food) at a later point. Purging disorder, however, is just focused on the second aspect, and there's a lot of critical argument among eating disorder experts about whether it should be officially designated as separate from bulimia (it's currently in the "Other" section of the DMS's eating disorder category). People with purging disorder don't alter their food intake; they simply throw up whatever they've consumed, or take laxatives and diuretics.
For this reason, according to the Eating Disorder Review, sufferers tend not to be vastly underweight, and it may be hard to diagnose them. Sufferers are also usually less concerned about eating in public than bulimics, and report themselves as less hungry overall. An estimated five percent of all women may experience the disorder in their lifetime, and it definitely deserves to be better known.
8. Binge Eating Disorder
The American Psychiatric Association now says that the practice of compulsive binge-eating is severe enough to count as a mental disorder. Bingeing, like purging, is often one part of bulimia, but binge eaters consume huge amounts of food in times of stress, to cope with emotional difficulty, for punishment, or to maintain a sense of "normalcy". The interesting thing is that the type of food isn't set: sufferers can and will binge-eat virtually anything, from carrots to Chinese food, and the impulse has virtually no connection to hunger or bodily satisfaction.
It's also a definitive cycle, like many eating disorders: a brief period of comfort following a binge, which is chased by sensations of disgust, self-hatred, misery, and depression. And no, having a few extra cookies at a party doesn't count — binge-eaters may not appear overweight, but their eating disorder is defined by sheer scale and secrecy.
9. Selective Eating Disorder
There are a number of different reasons you may be a "picky eater". One may be that you're actually a supertaster, capable of picking up huge varieties of flavor in foods, liable to find bitterness or excessive flavors absolutely intense and disgusting. Another could be something called "neo-phobia," where you are literally afraid of new things and restrict your dietary intake to a small amount of old favorites. But extremely restrictive diets, accompanied by severe anxiety and feelings of nausea when faced with certain foods, can mean something else: selective eating disorder.
We often associate picky eating with small children learning to try new foods, but in its extreme form it's a way of exerting control over your environment and eliminating "dangerous" or "threatening" foods. Sufferers often eat a range of two or three meals — at maximum — and are physically repulsed by most others. Reasons behind this are unclear, but it seems that the body may be overreacting to possible toxins in the textures and smells of foods. The result can be seriously nutritionally and socially damaging.
Editor's Note: If you're struggling with an eating disorder, help is available. Call (877) 453-4378 to find treatment near you.