How do I know if I have an eating disorder?

Other Types

This section contains information about a few unusual or unhealthy eating behaviours. Even though these disorders are related to disordered eating in some ways, they are not classified as eating disorders. Some of these disorders are feeding disorders, while others fit in other categories of mental disorders.

Avoidant / Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder can occur at any age. A person with ARFID does not eat enough food or take in the necessary nutrients to be healthy.

Common symptoms are:

  • weight loss that is of concern (or failure to gain weight in growing children)
  • malnutrition
  • dependence on nutritional supplements
  • problems in daily life

People with ARFID avoid or restrict food for many different reasons. They may avoid foods with certain colours or textures. Some may not eat because they are afraid of choking or vomiting, and their eating problem interferes with their daily life. Others may say they have no appetite or eat very small portions. If you are on a normal diet, or if you avoid certain foods because of cultural or religious practices, it is not considered a disorder.

People with ARFID do not have the distorted body image problems of someone with anorexia nervosa. But, the consequences of being underweight and lacking necessary nutrients can be just as severe.

Pica is when you eat or want to eat something that is not food. It is a strong desire and craving for something as if it was for food. Pica is a “feeding disorder” that can occur at any age. We don’t know much about why people might crave or eat non-food items. We do know that the cravings sometimes have to do with a nutrient that is missing in their diet. Pica is also related to stress.

People with pica may crave and eat:

  • clay
  • dirt
  • sand
  • stones & pebbles
  • hair
  • feces (poop)
  • lead
  • laundry starch
  • plastic
  • paper
  • paint chips
  • coal
  • chalk
  • light bulbs
  • needles
  • cigarette butts

When you eat non-foods, it can lead to problems with digestion. It can damage the stomach and intestine. It can also be very dangerous if you eat something that is toxic. Eating something toxic is like taking poison, and can be deadly.

“Bigorexia” (Muscle Dysmorphia)

fitnessPeople with muscle dysmorphia are obsessed with the idea that their body is not muscular enough. It is more common in men than in women, unlike most other eating disorders. The people at greatest risk for developing muscle dysmorphia are those who take part in sports that emphasize body size (bodybuilding, football, wrestling). Muscle dysmorphia is a kind of body dysmorphic disorder. People with these disorders are obsessed with a part of their body that they feel is flawed. This flaw may not be obvious to others. These disorders are classified as “obsessive-compulsive and related disorders”.

People with muscle dysmorphia are obsessed with how they look. They often have a distorted body image and believe their muscles are much smaller than they actually are.

Some signs of this disorder are:

  • exercising too much
  • extreme dieting
  • eating certain types of foods to try to gain muscle mass
  • using steroids or fat-burning pills

These habits are dangerous. They can cause liver failure, high blood pressure, and heart attack. People with muscle dysmorphia become so obsessed with getting a bigger and stronger body, that it affects other parts of life as well. For example, they may spend hours at the gym every day, or turn down invitations because they are ashamed of how they look.

People with body dysmorphia are concerned about specific aspects of their appearance (like their muscles). This type of disorder is different than an eating disorder, but some people who have body or muscle dysmorphia may have disordered eating as well.

healthy-1323738People with orthorexia will only eat foods that are “pure” or “healthy”. They worry about what is in the food they eat and how it was prepared. Often this disorder starts when someone just wants to get healthier or lose weight. But, as time passes, their diet becomes the most important part of their lives. Orthorexia is much more than just wanting to eat healthy. It can stop you from getting important nutrients because people with orthorexia only eat a very small number of foods. They may also lose too much weight. People with orthorexia spend a great deal of time thinking about food. This obsession can make it difficult to have a social life. It can be hard to enjoy activities with friends and family, such as going out for a meal. Orthorexia is a type of disordered eating, but is not currently considered to be an official eating disorder.

Resource List

  • Orthorexia ( English )
  • Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder ( English )
General Information: What is an eating disorder? Treatment Options: How do you treat an eating disorder?

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