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Most of us have heard of anorexia, bulimia, and muscle worship. But are you on the lookout for eating problems that can be caused by Prader-Willi syndrome, gourmand's syndrome, or pregorexia? Here are explanations of 5 common and 15 rare eating disorders.

Eating disorders are diseases that cause disturbances in body image and eating behavior. They can result in physical and psychological impairments. Some eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, are relatively well known. But some eating disorders are not.

Here is an overview of five common eating disorders and fifteen eating disorders most people have never heard of, starting with the more well-known ones.

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia is characterized by maintaining a low body weight out of fear of appearing fat or out of rejection of body image. The condition also involves a failure to recognize the seriousness of excessively low body weight. Not just vanity or a social issue, anorexia is believed to have genetic and neurological components.

Binge eating disorder

This eating disorder involves eating of large amounts of food without self-control at least once a week for three months, followed by guilt about overeating. Binge eaters eat faster than normal, sometimes so fast that they have only hazy memories of the event. Binge eaters do not take steps to prevent weight gain and tend not to be overly concerned about body image.

Bulimia nervosa

This eating disorder consists of binge eating followed by a purging activity (self-induced vomiting, laxatives, fasting, or extreme exercise) to avoid weight gain. Some bulimics purge by eating so much that they vomit. Repeated efforts to force vomiting result in damage to the teeth from stomach acid and thickening of the skin on the knuckles. Many people who suffer form bulimia also have issues with substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, 

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

A term originally coined to cover a variety of "mild" eating disorders, eating disorder not specified has been found to be potentially more deadly than anorexia or bulimia, possibly became people with this diagnosis don't get appropriate treatment.

Muscle dysmorphia

Mostly affecting males, this condition involves preoccupation with appearance, considering the body to be too skinny, too fat, or insufficiently muscular.

Now, let's take a look at relatively rare eating disorders.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

Some people have a bad experience with foods that causes them to avoid or restrict intake of that food or a range of foods permanently. This person may forget to eat and only eat when they are starving.

Compulsive exercise

Compulsive exercise becomes so extreme that it interferes with other areas of a person's life. The underlying motivation may be a health fear or fear of gaining weight.

Compulsive overeating or food addiction

Some individuals "graze" on food constantly but do not binge on mass quantities of food. Added sugar and salt increase the production of protein fosB in the nucleus acumbens in the brain in a way that suggests addiction. Food addicts may consume huge quantities of calories in a frenzy, and then cancel their plans for the next day because they feel guilty.


Diabetics who use insulin may reduce their dosage (and run the risk of complications from high blood sugar levels) to avoid fat accumulation after overeating. This condition may indicate that the diabetic has "burned out" on the daily rigors of diet and managing medications.


Alcoholics and other problem drinkers sometimes avoid food calories or binge and purge to avoid weight gain from excess consumption of alcohol. Drunkorexia is most common among young adults and teenagers who suffer interoceptive deficits, that is, who are not in touch with how their bodies feel.

Food maintenance

Children in foster care or in refugee housing sometimes develop ritual consumption and storage of food to deal with anxieties about continuing to be fed. Food maintenance is related to food security, the ongoing ability to access food.

Gourmand syndrome

Damage to the frontal lobes of the brain can cause obsession with fine foods. Damage to the same area of the brain in frontotemporal dementia may cause an obsession with ordinary foods or sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages.

Kleine-Levin syndrome

This very rare condition causes hypersomnia, wanting to sleep too much, hypersexuality, excessive interest in sex, and hyperphagia, eating to excess. It primarily affects adolescent males, often beginning after a viral infection.

Laxative abuse

Laxative abuse is the use of laxatives to feel thin or feel empty. It can result in laxative dependence and, ironically, severe constipation that adds visible weight to the midsection.


This term is used to refer to unrecognized or misdiagnosed anorexia in young males. Doctors don't expect male adolescents and young adults to experience low blood pressure due to malnutrition, and thus order heart catheterizations or vasopressor drugs when a more appropriate treatment would be food.

Orthorexia nervosa

A term attributed to Dr Steve Bratman, orthorexia nervosa refers to an obsession with "healthy" eating that interferes with normal life. Bratman also applies the term to obsession over vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.


Pica involves ingestion of substances that are not food, such as dirt, hair, and paint chips, and potentially dangerous amounts of salt. 


Some women engage in extreme diets and severe exercise schedules to avoid the appearance of weight gain during pregnancy.

Prader-Willi syndrome

Some people are born without part of chromosome 15 contributed by their father, or have two copies of part of that chromosome from their mother. They are constantly hungry, and develop obesity and type 2 diabetes early in life.

Rumination disorder

Rumination disorder involves the regular regurgitation of food that is then chewed and/or eaten.

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  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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