An eating disorder is characterized by abnormal eating patterns that attempt to satisfy a psychological rather than physical need. The three most common disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation, weight loss, an irrational fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a cycle of compulsive binging followed by purging through various means, such as vomiting, laxative/diuretic abuse, and extreme exercising. Binge eating disorder is the most common disorder and is characterized by frequent periods of compulsive overeating without accompanying purging behaviour.
Reference: Sonenklar, Carol. 2011. Anorexia and Bulimia (USA Today Health Reports: Diseases and Disorders). Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books.