The American Psychiatric Association uses the term Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified to describe eating disorders other than the more commonly known anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. These lesser known disorders may include a variety of symptoms associated with those three eating disorders and are often incorrectly diagnosed or undiagnosed as a result. But thanks in part to the Internet, more information about such eating disorders is available, even though some remain unrecognized as a medical diagnosis. Below are six such atypical eating disorders. For more information about and help with an eating disorder, visit National Eating Disorders Association website.
- Pica eating disorder:
Pica is the Latin word for “magpie,” a bird that’s known for eating, well, just about anything. People with pica eating disorder, often women who are pregnant, crave, chew, and eat non-food items, including chalk, paper, baking soda, and dirt. Those with the disorder may suffer from psychiatric disturbances or developmental disabilities, or come from a cultural background that includes eating non-food items (there is a tradition among African Americans and poor whites in the rural South of eating dirt to settle an upset stomach). Lack of nutrients in the body can also lead to pica eating disorder.
Men are susceptible to eating disorders, including manorexia, a variation on the term anorexia, whose symptoms include an irrational fear of gaining weight and a distorted self-perception of the body. Sadly, in spite of the preventive information that is available, eating disorders in the U.S. are at an all-time high, and idealized images of male physiques perpetuated by popular media are a contributing factor. Information regarding eating disorders in men and boys is available on the National Eating Disorders Association’s website.
- Trance eating:
Trance eating can be described as eating binges that occur in a dream-like state or while sleep-walking. Model and television spokesperson Tyra Banks, who has been celebrated as well as vilified for her efforts to bring attention to eating disorders, brought more attention to this particular disorder back in 2006 on an episode of her TV show. Sleep disorder, multiple personality disorder, and even self-hypnosis are various explanations for this extreme behavior of “mindless eating.”
Diabulimia refers to a person with type 1 diabetes who deliberately reduces their insulin intake in order to lose weight. Without insulin, calories are purged out of the body through the loss of glucose in urine. Although not recognized as a medical diagnosis, doctors and people with diabetes have acknowledged and are spreading the word about this unhealthy practice, which is symptomatic of an eating disorder.
- Chewing and spitting:
People who have an irrational fear of gaining weight may chew and then spit out the food they eat, believing that in addition to enjoying the taste of food, they will fool their body into thinking it’s full (and getting whatever nutrients it needs to function). Chewing and spitting isn’t new, but has gotten more attention thanks again to the Internet and more resources available to those with eating disorders.
Can eating healthy make you sick? Or even kill you? People with orthorexia nervosa obsessively avoid foods they believe are unhealthy, so much so that they end up depriving themselves of the vitamins and minerals their body needs in order to function. The disorder can lead to malnutrition, starvation, and death. People with orthorexia, which is not a clinical term and is not currently listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM, obsessively plan their meals, avoid food at parties, and focus on specific ingredients or nutrients at the expense of a balanced diet.