Eating Disorders

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What types of eating disorders are there?

Sexual violence can affect survivors in many ways, including perceptions of the body and feelings of control. There are three main types of eating disorders. It’s also possible to engage in disordered eating that doesn’t fit into one of these categories but is still dangerous.



  • Anorexia nervosa: characterized by restriction and self-starvation that causes excessive weight loss and has a damaging effect on overall health
  • Binge eating disorder: characterized by bingeing, the act of eating without control or response to normal hunger cues
  • Bulimia nervosa: characterized by a cycle of binge eating and purging of food in some way, such as laxatives or self-induced vomiting


Why do some survivors develop eating disorders?

Sexual violence can have an effect on the survivor's perceived body image and affect their eating habits. Some survivors may use food in an attempt cope with the trauma, feel in control, or compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem overwhelming. These actions only provide short-term relief, but they have the ability to cause long-term damage to your health.


What are the warning signs of an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are as different as the people who have them, but there are some warning signs that can tip off a loved one that something is wrong.


  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Preoccupation with food, calories, and dieting
  • Creating rules and categories for foods they will and won’t eat
  • Wearing excessively baggy clothing
  • Yellowing teeth or bad breath
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom around meal time
  • Cold hands or lowered body temperature
  • Refusing to go out to eat or visit during mealtimes
  • Rituals during mealtime such as chewing excessively, cutting up small bites, pushing food around a plate

Where can I find help and learn more?

Eating disorders are complex. Finding the right support is an important part of recovery. To be sure that you’re finding a supportive network, you can locate resources on The National Eating Disorder Association's website, read their stories of hope, or call their Helpline at 800.931.2237.

To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at

Please note that content on this site does not constitute medical advice and RAINN is not a medical expert. If after reading this information you have further questions, please contact a local healthcare professional or hospital.

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