Article | March 2018

The "Other" Eating Disorders

Beyond anorexia and bulimia

Most of us have heard of the more common eating disorders. These include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. You've probably heard about the health problems they can cause. But you may not have heard about the less common eating disorders. These can be just as harmful as the more well-known disorders.

Who suffers from these eating disorders?

Many people who develop unhealthy eating habits fall through the cracks. They find ways to lose weight without having an "official" eating disorder. Their loved ones may notice their behaviors and weight loss. But without a diagnosis, their problems might not be taken seriously. Yet their health is in danger.

What are the less common disorders?

Some unhealthy eating behaviors include:

  • Severely limiting the amount or type of food that is eaten
  • Bingeing and purging on a regular basis
  • Chewing and spitting out food without swallowing

Some of the more uncommon eating disorders include:

Chewing and spitting: People who chew and spit put food into their mouth, chew it, and spit it out without swallowing. They get to taste food without the calories – or the nutrition. This behavior is often found in people with anorexia. It can cause malnutrition and tooth decay. It also wastes the money spent on food.

Compulsive exercising (anorexia athletica): People with anorexia athletica exercise excessively. They exercise only to lose weight. Exercise is unhealthy when it interferes with daily activities. And it's unhealthy when missing exercise causes anxiety. These people are rarely satisfied with their achievements. They're constantly moving onto their next big physical challenge.

Orthorexia nervosa: People with orthorexia nervosa prefer to only eat certain foods. They often prefer natural, pure, or organic foods. And they may feel superior to people who eat non-organic or junk foods. These people go beyond normal, healthy eating. Their diets wind up lacking important nutrients necessary for good health.

Rumination syndrome: People with rumination syndrome chew and swallow their food. Then they regurgitate it back into the mouth, and chew and swallow again. This makes them feel like they're eating more food than they actually are.

Use of diuretics or laxatives: Some people use diuretics or laxatives to help them lose weight. Diuretics increase urination. Laxatives increase the frequency of bowel movements. Sometimes diuretics and laxatives are medically necessary. But using them to lose weight is dangerous.

These behaviors and disorders aren't as common as the more well-known disorders. But they're more common than you may think. They often exist alongside the more typical eating disorders. And they can cause malnutrition, along with more serious health problems. Malnutrition can cause permanent damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, bones, and teeth. Some of this damage can even result in death.

If you or someone you know has unhealthy eating habits, get help. Talk to your health care provider or mental health professional. Find out what you can do to get back on track to eating healthy – the right way.

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Source: Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (ANRED). Less-well-known eating disorders and related problems.

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care provider can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health benefits, you can call the member services or behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care ID card.