The majority of edfolks experience mixed symptoms and can be diagnosed for different eating disorders at different times over the years. According to ANRED, an ED statistics website, around half of anorexics go on to develop bulimia or bulimic tendencies (https://www.anred.com/stats.html).
On my bio I’ve put that I’m a person recovering from AN, BN, BED, EDNOS and CS (that means anorexia, bulimia, eating disorder not-otherwise-specified, and chew-spit, the last which is thought to be a derivation of bulimia). Maybe you’re thinking, how can one person have so many different disorders?
That’s an important question, because the way I see it is that I’ve experienced one more or less continuous disorder that has manifested in different ways. It all comes from the same “place,” if you will. Sometimes that appears as restricting and losing weight, sometimes as bingeing every night and then starving the next day. I look different at different points and I have different behaviors, but it’s all essentially the same thing: a conflicted relationship with food and myself, leading to the manipulation (attempted or actualized) of my body.
That’s why I hesitate to say that I was “once” anorexic, then bulimic, then a person with BED (binge eating disorder), then bulimia again, etc. Thinking of it all as one morphing illness makes it difficult to parse apart different segments of the disorder.
I remember once feeling deep shame and confusion that I had used to be anorexic, and was then bulimic, and finally a binger. What was wrong with me? Why did I qualify for so many diagnoses, and did that mean I was particularly ill?
This came, I believe, out of my eating disorders education. Eating disorders are presented as separate, un-overlapping entities. That’s how the diagnoses are designed. You are either anorexic or bulimic, either EDNOS or BED, not both, not more than one. While I understand the use of this (it makes eating disorders much easier to understand, research, and treat), I think this simplistic view can be more harmful than anything. I realized a couple of years ago that I wasn’t the only edperson that felt confused about my multiple and ever-changing diagnoses.
A quick online search showed me that the majority of edfolks experience mixed symptoms and can be diagnosed for different eating disorders at different times over the years. If it appears that eating disorders can morph and develop within a person over time, what does that mean that we have separate diagnostic categories? Could individuals be treated more effectively if we recognize the potential (or even likelihood) for a person with a certain ed profile to gain “new” diagnoses over time?
I remember reading in an online forum a girl’s post which echoed a common theme. In her post she desperately asked viewers, “What’s wrong with me? I used to be anorexic, but now all I do is binge!” What I want to convey to other edfolks with mixed symptoms, then, is this: it is common to go through symptom changes, which might mean you fit in to different diagnoses over time.
Just because you used to be bulimic but now you have BED, or maybe you were anorexic but now have EDNOS, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you as a person. It means that what you struggle with is complicated and it changes over time.
And maybe it means that the diagnoses we are given to work with don’t really show the evolving complexity of eating disorders.