Types of Eating Disorders and History

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Eating orders come in different forms but can be described as a psychological disorder that affects normal eating habits and significantly impairs health or psychosocial functioning (Dell’Osso et al. 2016).

Examples of common eating disorders includes bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating. Bulimia nervosa is when a person binge eats a large amount of food in a short amount of time, but undo it by self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise or taking an unsafe number of laxatives due to the fear of weight gain.

Anorexia nervous is an eating disorder that strongly takes away the urge to eat. It is a very intense fear of weight gain and therefore causes a person to see their body differently. People who suffers from anorexia nervous has a distorted body image, so they have a hard time truly interpreting their bodies. Binge eating is when someone takes in a large amount of food and feels like it is uncontrollable. People who suffer from binge eating typically feels depressed and/or guilty afterwards.

There is evidence of eating disorders during the Middle Age which dates between 476 AD – 1492. “During the Middle Age, and in particular from the 13th to the 16th century, it is possible to collect various evidence of extreme, self-induced fasting, often leading to premature death by starvation, such as Catherina from Siena”.

The difference between eating disorders currently and historically is the causes. Between the 13th and 16th century, self- starvation practices stemmed from spirituality. These were typically used for self-sacrifice. There was a relationship between inanition and spirituality, but most cases were related to demonic possessions.

Eating disorders dates back many years but the drastic differences between the causes changed as media started to develop in the modern world. As evidence suggests, fasting or self-starvation was a way of practicing religion or spiritualty, but this practice has been taught and made to believe that it is truly a sacrifice which can be equally a psychological issue.

Act or Identity?

Having an eating disorder is an act and not an identity because it doesn’t truly represent who that person is. Because eating disorders can be treated, it allows people to express their personalities in a healthier way once the disorder is under control.

“Those with AN (Anorexia Nervosa) often report profound disconnection with their own emotions and body sensations, difficulty in understanding their own and others’ internal experiences, and problems in constructing a personal narrative over time, especially related to the disorder (Amianto, Northoff et al. 2016)”. It can also relate to identity because eating disorders gives an unrealistic idea of self even though their eating disorders doesn’t realistically define who they are.

Having a disorder can be either a situational or permanent identity depending on if the eating disorder is being treated. Once an eating disorder is treated and under control, then that person will start regaining a better sense of self. It doesn’t have to control who a person is or take over their identity. If someone is constantly in limbo about their bodies and eating habits, then it will be very difficult to figure out their true identity when they strongly believe that their bodies are the source of their problems.

It has its way of taking over their minds and taking them away from what truly makes them, them. “That is, the adolescent with AN has difficulty to consider their future and to perceive and integrate their past into a current narrative of the self”. Individuals with eating disorders have difficulty with integrating their own personal experiences within their sense of self and creates a problem resulting in an unstable identity. An unstable identity weakens their ability to function emotionally and socially, and also lowers their self-esteem.

Social Impact and Consequences

“Peer pressure to conform to cultural ideals has been consistently identified as an important factor associated with the development of disordered eating behaviors, especially among adolescent males (Salafia, Haugen & Schaefer, 2015).” The standard of beauty is something that society created in attempt to define what beauty is. It impacts society as a whole because many people see the idea of “perfect” bodies in movies, television shows, magazines and social media. It puts pressure on people to live up to those standards in order to be socially accepted. As a result, many engage in dangerous “solutions” to body image issues that can sometimes be fatal if not treated. Although social pressure isn’t the only cause, it can contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

Sometimes, people do not understand what it means to have an eating disorder. “Parental weight-related teasing, negative comments about body shape, pressure to lose weight, and encouragement to diet have also been associated with body dissatisfaction, dieting, disordered eating behaviors, and eating disorders among both females and males (Salafia, Haugen & Schaefer, 2015)”. They just feel like it is something that can be controlled. Sufferers of eating disorders sometimes have to deal with constant backlash from friends and family members because of their lack of knowledge on the subject. Their comments sometimes contribute to their guilt of either under or overeating, even if those peers doesn’t realize that their hurting them furthermore.

People with eating disorders feel like society is constantly judging them and how their body looks. According to study about people with eating disorders, “Judgement from others was a consistent fear amongst patients, both in relation to a wide array of ED (weight, image) and non-ED (academic achievement, intelligence) factors (Patel, Tchanturia & Harrison, 2016)”. This can be a cause of social anxiety because they fear that the public will shun them for looking a certain way. Going to a public place can be scary because the feeling of everyone staring and talking about them. Society sometimes places blame on individuals with eating disorders because they believe that their disorder was “self-inflicted” and that they can control it.


Having an eating disorder can be caused by a number of factors, sometimes socially or genetically. Problems with eating disorders often stem from society and how body image is displayed. Self esteem is affected by what is portrayed by the media of how one is “supposed” to look, even if it’s unrealistic or difficult to achieve. Family and friends sometimes have a low understanding of how eating disorders work and how it affects individuals who suffers from it.

Without the proper support group, people with eating disorders have a difficult time with finding help and breaking away from unhealthy eating habits. Society indirectly treat eating disorders as a deviant behavior that can be “switched on or off” but in actuality, it is caused by other deviant behaviors such as peer pressure or bullying. Eating disorders stems from a psychological defense mechanism to try to fight off anxiety when it comes to dealing with the public eye. Eating disorders is a condition that needs to be treated professionally because it is difficult for sufferers to help themselves because of the strong belief that their eating habits is the solution to their problems rather long term or short term. Society is one’s biggest problem because of the constant judgement or fear of judgement.

Works Cited

  1. Amianto, Federico, Georg Northoff, Giovanni Abbate Daga, Secondo Fassino, and Giorgio A. Tasca. 2016. “Is Anorexia Nervosa a Disorder of the Self? A Psychological Approach.” Frontiers in Psychology. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  2. Blodgett Salafia, E.H., Jones, M.E., Haugen, E.C. et al. Perceptions of the causes of eating disorders: a comparison of individuals with and without eating disorders. J Eat Disord 3, 32 (2015) doi:10.1186/s40337-015-0069-8
  3. Dell, Liliana et al. 2016. “[Full Text] Historical Evolution of the Concept of Anorexia Nervosa and Relationsh: NDT.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. Retrieved November 15, 2019 (https://www.dovepress.com/historical-evolution-of-the-concept-of-anorexia-nervosa-and-relationsh-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-NDT).
  4. Patel, Krisna, Kate Tchanturia, and Amy Harrison. 2016. “An Exploration of Social Functioning in Young People with Eating Disorders: A Qualitative Study.” PloS One. Retrieved November 15, 2019 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4961427/).


Cite this paper

Types of Eating Disorders and History. (2020, Sep 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/types-of-eating-disorders-and-history/



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