7 Lesser-Known Eating Disorders

Bigorexia/Muscle Dysmorphia

Bigorexia, also known as muscle dysmorphia, is a disorder in which a person constantly worries about being too small and frail looking. This disorder is said to be the opposite of anorexia nervosa, a disorder nearly all eating disorder residential centers treat. Those with this bigorexia are not frail or underdeveloped at all and typically have large muscle mass. Muscle dysmorphia is often found in body builders and frequent gym-goers.

Inadequacy felt by those with muscle dysmorphia can have negative effects on all areas of their life, affecting relationships as well as work and school. Obsession with muscle mass and a lean body increases the risk of steroid use and an unhealthy diet which leads to major health complications. Bigorexia is more common in males than in females because women are usually under pressure to become skinnier while men are under pressure to become more muscular.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a disorder in which a person is extremely concerned with their outward appearance, and imagines severe flaws, or distortions, on their body. Typically these flaws are slight imperfections, or are merely imagined. Flaws in the skin, hair and face are most common, although these “flaws” can appear anywhere in the body.

The ugliness felt by those with BDD draws them away from social situations that might draw attention to themselves. Body dysmorphic disorder is sometimes considered a social phobia or a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Those affected with this disorder are at an increased risk for depression and/or suicide. Plastic surgery is also common among those with this disorder. The poor body image those with BDD suffer from is common in people with eating disorders. People with eating disorders will often seek eating disorder treatment at a local eating disorder residential center in hopes of recovery.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia Nervosa is a disorder in which a person is compulsively obsessed with eating pure and healthy food. This proper food might include organic or other foods sold in health stores. Obsession over a perfect diet is sometimes so intense that when rules are broken, those with this disorder are forced to punish themselves, often by maintaining an even stricter diet or by fasting.

Those with orthorexia nervosa obsess over what is eaten, how much of it is eaten and how it was prepared. This disorder is dangerous because the obsession with the “right” kinds of food takes over a person’s life, disabling them, and making life impossible to live due to the constant focus on food. Relationships, work, school and all other things of value become unimportant and are neglected when someone has orthorexia nervosa. Those with eating disorders such as orthorexia nervosa will often need the assistance of an eating disorder treatment center.

Night Eating Syndrome

Night Eating Syndrome is a disorder in which a person consumes most of their calories in the evening hours. This probably occurs because of a lack of eating in the morning hours, which later is later due to the guilt felt by eating so much the night before. Often times, foods eaten later in the evening, usually after dinner, contain a lot of fat and sugar.

Sometimes, those with Night eating syndrome will get up in the middle of the night to eat. Insomnia and other sleeping problems are common in those with this disorder. Night eating syndrome is most common among overweight and obese people. Another common eating disorder which causes obesity is binge eating disorder. For these and other eating disorders, eating disorder treatment clinics are offered.


Pica is disorder in which a person has a strong desire to eat, lick, or chew non-food items. These items consist of dirt, paint chips, rust, glue, fingernails, hair, chalk, starch, cigarette ashes and clay. This disorder is common is pregnant women, small children, people with mineral deficiencies and those in developing countries who may not get enough to eat.

Accidental poisoning is perhaps the biggest hazard associated with pica. Other complications include malnutrition, damage to the teeth, tears in the intestine lining, infections, constipation and blockages in the digestive tract. Pica can be very hazardous to a person’s health, just as many other other eating disorders are. For those fearful of the consequences of their eating disorder, eating disorder residential programs offer their advice and support.

Prader-Willi Syndrome

Prader-willi syndrome is a disorder in which a person cannot stop themselves from eating. Someone with this condition will often steal, hide food or eat the pet’s food. Mental retardation, friendliness, lack of muscular tone, obesity, short stature, incomplete sexual development and a stubborn attitude are other common factors in someone with this disorder.

The insatiable appetite of someone with prader-willi syndrome is a congenital condition, meaning it was present at birth, caused by an abnormality in the genes. This constant need for food is caused by a defect found in the hypothalamus. This part of the brain determines the hunger of a person, and with its defect, the person can never achieve a state of complete fullness.

Sleep Eating Disorder (SED-NOS)/Nocturnal Sleep-Eating Disorder

Sleep Eating Disorder (SED-NOS), also known as nocturnal sleep-eating disorder is a disorder in which a person will eat and sometimes prepare their own food, while they are asleep or in a semi-conscious state. The sufferer rarely remembers these episodes and is embarrassed by their behavior. Sleep walking is frequent among those with SED-NOS.

This disorder is a combination of both a sleeping and eating disorder. More than half of its victims are women, and most sufferers are overweight or obese. Foods typically eaten in these midnight binges are often high in fat and sugar. People with this disorder often find themselves tired the next morning with feelings of anxiousness, stress or anger.


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5 Responses to “7 Lesser-Known Eating Disorders”

  1. Sam

    I have been only eating 800 cals. a day for about 2 weeks and have lost 5 pounds. I am also working out.
    I would like to know if it is healthy or not.
    I am 5′ 4″ and used to be 95 pounds and am now 90/89.

  2. Nic

    Sam, at 95 pounds you were already underweight; your BMI would have been 16.3, while a healthy BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. At 89 pounds your BMI would be 15.3.
    Also, 800 calories/day is not enough for anyone – adults need at least 2000 calories a day (but if you’re male I think it’s 2500).
    So no, it’s not healthy! I think you need to eat more and gain weight, not lose it!
    And working out on top of all that cannot be good for you.

  3. Mary

    Sam, it’s dependent upon how you feel. Do you feel hungry, or weak? Do you get tired easily? I have a slightly higher bmi (I’m 5’6, 105 pounds); but I feel fine. Are you intentionally trying to lose weight? You don’t need to. You’re super tiny. Sometimes, it’s easy to see yourself as being fat even when you are very thin. Starving / underrating can cause bloating. Also, I know that when I was a teenager, I was taking a medication that made my face very chubby (it also made me too nauseas to eat much). So even though I weighed about the same as I do now, I thought I was really fat. All told for, it really depends on how you feel.
    Best wishes.

  4. Jayme

    My cousin had prader-willie syndrome. He always thought he was hungry, even if he just ate. He was such a sweet boy. He passed away of a stroke when he was 9 and I was 8. He was my best friend. He had other birth complications that added to everything. Sadly, Prader-Willi syndrome is often in conjunction with other things. I wish I knew more about it, but there’s not much out there because its still rather uncommon. When I see shows about morbidly obese children who are really young, it makes me crazy that I can see most of these children probably have the disorder and instead of screening them for it they just call it bad parenting.

  5. Liv

    Many of these aren’t eating disorders. Some, like pica and prader-willie syndrome, are medical disorders. Others, like Body Dysmorphic Disorder, are mental conditions that often accompany an eating disorder, but is not one itself. For example, some people have BDD without an eating disorder and it causes tgem to have a distorted view of themselves, but doesn’t affect their eating.