Eating Disorders: More Than Just Anorexia and Bulimia

Contributed by: Rita Ekelman MBA, RDN, LDN, Director of Nutrition Services at Timberline Knolls

italy-209892_640Most people are familiar with eating disorders. Most likely they have heard of anorexia and bulimia. They have read about eating disorders or know someone who has struggled with one.

Lesser known eating disorders do exist and are important in their own right. These include:

Diabulimia:

Females with Type I diabetes have discovered they can achieve thinness without starving themselves, exercising to an excessive degree, or spending huge amounts of money on the latest diet craze. By simply manipulating their insulin intake, weight can be controlled.

Under-dosing insulin causes sugar to be eliminated from the body via urine. This practice is referred to as diabulimia.

This combination isn’t just unhealthy, it is often lethal. When anorexia is present, the mortality rate for these young women increases dramatically. Perhaps even worse is the escalation of medical complications such as vision loss and kidney failure.

What a diabetic woman might expect to experience in 15 to 20, even 30, years, she is accelerating to five to seven years. This means if she begins insulin manipulation at the age of 17, she could be totally blind, suffering from extreme nerve pain, or on a kidney-transplant list by her mid-20s.

Drunkorexia:

sad-468923_640Drunkorexia is not an official medical term; instead, it’s slang terminology for eating disordered behaviors combined with alcohol abuse. Typically, it applies to a young college-age woman who starves herself throughout the day to avoid calories, then drinks to excess at night.

The name is somewhat of a misnomer because it implies that alcohol abuse is strongly tied to anorexia, which is not the case. Those with anorexia rarely consume alcohol because of the calories.

A woman with bulimia is far more likely to engage in drunkorexia behaviors. In fact, alcohol may figure prominently in her binge-purge cycle. In addition to eating huge quantities of food, she imbibes excessively.

Not only does she experience the mood altering effects of alcohol, but the large amount of liquid facilitates the purge process. After vomiting, it is not unusual for her to drink even more, in order to sustain feelings of intoxication.

Orthorexia:

This eating disorder is found in those who are extremely health conscious. It often begins as a well-intended pursuit; the desire to take good care of their bodies through healthy eating.

Unfortunately, given the vast food choices available in our country and often contradictory information online and in the media, certain people turn healthy nutrition into a harmful obsession.

Individuals with orthorexia develop a pathological obsession with healthy eating, which ultimately consumes an enormous amount of time and thought. The consequences of this behavior can mirror the severity of other eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

Treatment Is Available

Regardless of how an eating disorder manifests, it translates into an unhealthy relationship with food and a difficult way to live. Fortunately, treatment is available and recovery is always possible.


The opinions and views of our guest bloggers are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.