Most people are aware of the most common eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. However, many other uncommon eating disorders can be just as dangerous if left untreated.
In today’s blog post, we’re going to discuss 5 eating disorders you may not have heard of:
Drunkorexia or alcohol anorexia is a non-medical slang term that refers to restricting food calories to “make up” for the calories consumed from drinking alcohol.1 This eating disorder is a major concern for young adults especially. Young adults who enjoy socializing but wish to keep a thin figure are increasingly turning to eating less and drinking more. According to studies, approximately 30% of women in their early twenties skip meals in order to drink more.2
Calorie restriction combined with binge drinking and other diagnosable characteristics results in an eating disorder, anemia, acne-prone skin, brittle and thin nails and hair, dizziness, abdominal bloating, constipation, dehydration, vitamin depletion and other physical and mental health issues… Not to mention worse hangovers!
The term “orthorexia,” which first came into use in 1998, refers to a fixation with “healthy” eating.3 Being aware of the nutritional value of the food you consume is not in and of itself a problem, but individuals with orthorexia get so obsessed with “eating healthy” that they endanger their own wellbeing and develop an eating disorder.
Some warning signs/symptoms of orthorexia include:3
- Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
- An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
- Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
- An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
- Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating
- Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events
- Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
- Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram
- Body image concerns may or may not be present
Pica is an eating disorder characterized by the consumption of items that are not normally considered food and do not have significant nutritional value, such as hair, dirt, and paint chips.4
Pica can affect anyone at any age, but it is more common in three groups of people:5
- Young children, particularly those under the age of six.
- People who are expecting.
- People suffering from certain mental illnesses, particularly autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, or schizophrenia.
Some warning signs and symptoms of pica include:4
- The persistent eating, over a period of at least one month, of substances that are not food and do not provide nutritional value.
- The ingestion of the substance(s) is not a part of culturally supported or socially normative practice (e.g., some cultures promote eating clay as part of a medicinal practice).
- Typical substances ingested tend to vary with age and availability. They may include paper, soap, cloth, hair, string, wool, soil, chalk, talcum powder, paint, gum, metal, pebbles, charcoal, ash, clay, starch, or ice.
4. Rumination Disorder
Rumination syndrome is an eating disorder in which people unintentionally spit up undigested or partially digested food from their stomach, rechew it, and then either re-swallow or spit it out.6
Because the food hasn’t been digested yet, it supposedly tastes normal and isn’t acidic like vomit. Rumination occurs shortly after eating and occurs regularly.6
The DSM-5 (diagnostic) criteria for rumination disorder are:7
- Repeated regurgitation of food for a period of at least one month. Regurgitated food may be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out.
- The repeated regurgitation is not due to a medication condition (e.g., gastrointestinal condition).
- The behavior does not occur exclusively in the course of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, BED, or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
- If occurring in the presence of another mental disorder (e.g., intellectual developmental disorder), it is severe enough to warrant independent clinical attention.
When an individual does not match the diagnostic requirements for another eating disorder, they are classified as having Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED). Individuals with OSFED frequently have extremely disordered eating habits, a distorted body image, an overvaluation of body shape and weight, and an intense fear of gaining weight.8 OSFED is the most common eating disorder diagnosed in adults and adolescents, and it affects both men and women.8
Here are some examples of how OSFED could be presented:8
- Bulimia Nervosa (of low frequency and/or limited duration): An individual meets the criteria for bulimia but engages in binging or purging behaviors at a lower frequency and/or for a limited period.
- Binge Eating Disorder (of low frequency and/or limited duration): An individual meets the criteria for binge eating disorder but engages in binging behaviors at a lower frequency and/or for a limited period.
- Atypical Anorexia Nervosa: An individual has restrictive behaviors and other symptoms of anorexia, however, they do not meet the low weight criteria.
We hope that this blog post helped you learn about some of the not-so-common eating disorders. If you think you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, know that we’re here to help! You can schedule a free call with us here.
You can also contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline for support at 1-800-931-2237 (call or text).
- Drunkorexia: What is it and Why is it So Dangerous? (2019, July 24). Center For Discovery.
- What is “Drunkorexia”? WebMD. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
- Orthorexia. Nationaleatingdisorders.org. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
- Pica. Nationaleatingdisorders.org. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
- Holahan, J. R. (2005). Pica. The American Journal of Medicine, 118(9), 1055.
- Rumination syndrome. (2020, October 14). Mayo Clinic.
- Rumination Disorder. Nationaleatingdisorders.org. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
- What is OSFED: Symptoms, Causes, and Complications. (2017, September 15). Center For Discovery.