Overcoming Disordered Eating: Three Unusual Eating Disorders

When it comes to eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia, along with compulsive overeating, are the most well-known and the most widely treated. However, there are three other types of eating disorders that people struggle with that are less understood. These also need to be treated with a combination of medical interventions and mental health solutions. If you or a loved one is struggling with disordered eating, be sure to educate yourself on these problems, as you will want to be sure that all aspects of eating disorders are treated when you seek medical help. Treatment for the underlying causes of all types disordered eating is needed to prevent you or a loved one from developing more than one eating disorder, as they can evolve or co-exist. These three eating disorders, while not well-known, still pose a health risk. 

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

This disorder has some parallels with anorexia nervosa, but it has its own category because the person struggling with this type of eating disorder may not have the same issues with body image or extreme weight loss. In fact, they may eat plenty of food. It's the food itself that is the problem. People may avoid specific foods so diligently that they are chronically malnourished and need medical supplements or even intravenous delivery of nutrients in order to provide the body with vitamins and minerals.

For example, a person struggling with ARFID may only eat starches, or will compulsively avoid eating anything green or anything that has a specific texture. This goes beyond simple distaste. They have a strong emotional or mental block that physically impedes them from eating. Some patients may become sick or have have extreme anxiety if compelled to eat foods outside of their usual diet. 

Psychotherapy can help a person with ARFID to confront the underlying anxieties that prevent them from eating a healthy diet. Anxieties might be learned from childhood. Sometimes, deep emotional ties have been developed for or against certain foods. Once a person can recognize these reactions, he or she can work on resolving the feelings so that they can be unhindered in choosing healthful, varied options later in life. 

Rumination Disorder

This disorder causes people to regurgitate food they have already swallowed in order to spit it out or re-chew it. Sometimes, regurgitation can be caused by physical medical conditions or medications. It is only a disorder when there is not medical explanation for the initial rejection of swallowed food. This disorder is more common in infants, and may be a physical response to stressful home environments, lack of stimulation, or to parental neglect. If regurgitated food is swallowed, serious side effects can be avoided. But, spitting food out will lead, of course, to malnutrition. 

Sometimes, the issue can self-resolve, as the condition is less common in teens and adults. If it does not, or if the person is struggling to the nutrients needed to sustain life, the underlying psychological triggers will need to be addressed by a medical health professional. 


Pica is the appetite for non-food items, such as clay, ice, metal, or dirt. People may also eat paper, chalk or even detergent. It is medically dangerous disorder because these items can bring distress to the digestive system and causes lasting damage, especially if the ingested items are toxic or sharp. In some cases, there are medical explanations for pica, notably iron-deficiency anemia that has not been treated. However, other people may find the textures to be especially comforting, or they may find that eating these non-food items is emotionally comforting.

In the cases with the compulsion to eat clay comes from psychological distress, patients should receive therapy to help determine the underlying cause. Methods may include teaching the patient alternative methods of self-soothing or removing triggers or fears that cause the anxiety. Pica sufferers usually are monitored closely by a physician and by medical health professionals, as the behavior can be so destructive to health.

Every eating disorder is the result of a complex state of emotional health. Usually, they are best treated with the help of counseling, medication, and modern psychiatry. Contact a clinic like Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc if you are concerned that you or someone you know might have one of these issues.