Guide On Disordered Eating VS. Eating Disorder

 A complete guide on disordered eating vs. eating disorder.

An eating disorder is different from that of disordered eating. It is not easy to understand and identify disordered eating, which has a narrow range of symptoms.

To understand them, let’s look into them in detail.

1. Eating Disorder

disordered eating vs. eating disorder
Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Individuals with eating disorders often tend to show uncontrollable tendencies to eat food. They put severe restrictions regarding food themselves. They always spend most of their time thinking about their calorie intake, food fads, and food avoidance.

They are often seen working up, trying to plan a proper meal, and controlling their calorie intake.

These tendencies end up distorting their daily life.

Their relationship with food is very chaotic. They spend hours trying to set a healthy limit.

2. Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are of many types. However, the most common eating disorders are listed below:

  • binge eating disorder,
  • anorexia nervosa,
  • and bulimia nervosa

2.1. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. People diagnosed with this disorder are often observed to be obsessing over the weight of their bodies and the food they eat.

These individuals tend to go through extremes that often involve purging behaviour to maintain their body weight. They have issues with body image and go out of their way to avoid weight gain.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

2.2. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is another type of eating disorder. This condition is pretty severe.

People with this often tend to eat an excessive amount of food in a very short interval, especially while going through a binge episode, which is usually followed by guilt and shame.

All this leads the individuals towards self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or purging.

Due to these behaviours shown by the affected individuals, this disorder is also regarded as binging or purging eating disorder.

Bulimia Nervosa

2.2.1. Symptoms

Here are the signs and symptoms of bulimia:

  • Affected individuals intake excess amounts of food in very short intervals, constantly throughout the day.
  • They take extreme measures to try to compensate for binge eating behaviours. They are often seen trying to induce vomiting, involving themselves in intense workouts.
  • Such behaviour is seen very frequently in people with this disorder
  • The feeling of losing control of oneself.
  • They are always focused on how they look. Body image matters most to them.

The affected individual’s behaviour is the key to identifying the difference between bulimia and anorexia.

The most common symptoms in both disorders are deformed body image and the extreme fear of weight gain.

2.3. Binge Eating Disorder

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Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

BED, a binge eating disorder, is observed in almost 2% of the world population.

People with BED are also affected by diabetes. They often have very high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.

These other effects (diabetes and other lifestyle disorders) are due to their tendency to undergo binge eating.

Any emotional trauma or stress can act as a potent trigger that leads to excess food intake.

Individuals with this disorder may experience a feeling of relief while going through a binge episode, but it is often accompanied by shame or guilt afterwards.

However, now we have a method to identify this disorder and even provide treatment for the affected.

Understanding Binge-eating Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

2.3.1. Signs of Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Eating abnormally quickly than normal
  • Eating until one feels uncomfortably full
  • Overeating without even feeling hungry.
  • Having meals alone to avoid feeling embarrassed
  • Self-induced guilt.

3. Signs and Symptoms of An Eating Disorder

Signs of an Eating Disorder

The intensity of Obsession associated with disordered thoughts and behaviours regarding food can distinguish disordered eating from an eating disorder.

It is also customary to plan a meal, go grocery shopping, and have food cravings.

However, being always focused on food (even when the person is not hungry) is a sign of disordered eating habits.

Now, let’s look into the signs of this disorder to understand it better.

  • Losing control while undergoing bingeing episodes
  • Eating food in secrecy.
  • Hiding food.
  • The feeling of guilt and shame after binge eating
  • Stealing any food items.
  • The affected individuals are often seen to undergo a period where they try to impose severe food restrictions on themselves.
  • Abnormally extreme changes in body weight
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling depressed.
  • Avoid parties, get-togethers, or any occasion that may include food.
  • laxative abuse
  • Having extreme exercise schedules to lose weight
  • Unhealthy personal relationships
  • Often prefer to wear clothes that may help them hide their body fat.
  • May also have other mental illnesses.
  • Unhealthy Obsession over body size and shape
  • Problematic or disordered relationships with food
  • Body image issues
  • Constant Complaining of being overweight when in reality they are underweight
  • Coming up with excuses to avoid eating
  • Excessive dieting (using diet pills)
  • Spending an enormous amount of time reading ingredient labels and counting calories in the grocery store.

4. Disordered Eating

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Photo by Tyson on Unsplash

Disordered eating involves a range of irregular eating behaviors.

These irregularities may or may not be a diagnosable eating disorder.

Mental health professionals follow specific and accepted criteria to identify eating disorders like bulimia nervosa

Even to identify and diagnose EDNOS, professionals often use a method with particular criteria.

All these will help the medical professionals not only identify the disorder but also to plan further treatment.

5. Types of Disordered Eating

It is hard to pinpoint disordered eating. They come in a wide range.

These are some examples of disordered eating:

  • Binging and purging
  • Emotional eating
  • Restrictive eating
  • Extreme dieting
  • Laxative abuse

6. Symptoms of Disordered Eating

Here are the symptoms of disordered eating:

  • Extreme dieting
  • Regular changes in the body’s weight can be gaining the body weight or losing body weight.
  • Practising extreme workout routines in a way that harms them.
  • Feeling guilty after consuming food.
  • Increased anxiety is often associated with certain foods.
  • Being obsessed with body shape and size. Constant urge to maintain their body.
  • They try to compensate for their eating abnormalities with extreme workout schedules and other purging behaviours.

7. Disordered Eating vs. Eating Disorders

Eating Disorder VS Disordered Eating | Should I Seek Help?

The American Psychiatric Association worked and set standard criteria for a better understanding of eating disorders and disordered eating.

Here “disordered eating” is a descriptive term. It is not a diagnosis, and due to this, most individuals with disordered eating also fall into the criteria of eating disorder not specified(EDNOS1)

One should understand that many disordered eating patterns may not have been listed in the diagnostic criteria of disordered eating.

The eating concerns which doesn’t have proper clinical diagnosis deserve attention and treatment as there is a very good possibility of them turning into a clinical eating disorder.

8. Prevention and Management

Treating or managing disordered eating and eating disorders can be complex, but there are numerous ways to treat and handle these signs and symptoms.

It is not easy to discontinue disordered eating before it paves its path toward a full-blown eating disorder; it is never impossible to contain disordered eating patterns.

8.1. Avoid Trendy Diets

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Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Currently, there are too many food trends that gained quick popularity among people, like crash diets. All this food tends to sound promising to lose weight or attain that desired body.

But by following these trendy diets, the quantity of food a person intakes is immensely restrictive. Often there is no variation in the food.

All these can keep a person feeling deprived of food, ultimately craving more food.

In this way, it does more harm than benefit. Hence it is better not to follow all these weird trends and try to involve a little of all types of food.

By practising this, you can have a variety of food in your diet

8.2. Set Healthy Limits On the Exercise

It is essential to set healthy exercise limits. Having extreme workout schedules and being obsessed about it is a sign of disorder. This may pave the oath to restrictive eating disorders. Physical activity is significant. Exercise is one possible way to keep you fit and healthy.

However, one should keep track of the frequency of the workout sessions and the reasons one has to work out.

Exercise should be enjoyable, not hectic!

8.3. Stop Negative Body Talk

Rather than negatively critiquing your body every time you get dressed up or by just randomly looking at yourself in the mirror or by gazing at a picture of you, try to see what your body can do for you, and understand that your body is yours forever home.

Your body is stronger than you think, and it is the only means that keeps you moving throughout the day. Take time for yourself. Appreciate the fantastic little things. Be comfortable in your skin. Avoid all negative self-talk.

Try to pen down all the little things you love about your body. Replace all the negativity with positivity! It will help you see the amazing you.

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Photo by Nik on Unsplash

9. Conclusion

We all live in a world that engrosses physical appearance instead of knowing what is underneath the skin. All these things slowly paved the path toward eating disorders. However, hope doesn’t fade.

Nowadays, we have mental health professionals and different forms of support groups. Through all these, one can take their first step towards body positivity and lead a healthy life.

Depending on the symptoms’ intensity, frequency, and duration, one can benefit from these professional treatments or therapies 2without undertaking any medication.

You can gift yourself the confidence and strength to overcome eating disorders and stay positive with all this.


1. Can Disordered Eating Lead to an Eating Disorder?

A: Yes, disordered eating patterns can potentially progress to a diagnosable eating disorder if left untreated or if the behaviours intensify over time.

Disordered eating can be a risk factor for the development of more severe eating disorders, as it often involves a dysfunctional relationship with food and body image.

If disordered eating behaviours persist and significantly impact a person’s physical and psychological well-being, it is important to seek professional help to prevent it.

2. What Are the Potential Causes of Eating Disorders?

A: The causes of eating disorders are complex and multifaceted. They typically arise from a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, environmental, and sociocultural 3factors. Some common factors associated with the development of eating disorders include:

  1. Genetic predisposition or family history of eating disorders or mental health conditions.
  2. Neurochemical and hormonal imbalances that affect appetite, mood, and self-regulation.
  3. Body dissatisfaction and societal pressures to conform to unrealistic beauty standards.

3. Is Disordered Eating a Serious Concern?

A: While disordered eating may not reach the severity of a diagnosed eating disorder, it is still a serious concern that can have adverse effects on physical and mental health. Disordered eating patterns can disrupt normal eating behaviours, impair nutrient intake, and lead to deficiencies or imbalances in the body.

Read more

  1. Birgegård, Andreas, et al. “Validity of eating disorder diagnoses in the Swedish national patient register.” Journal of Psychiatric Research 150 (2022): 227-230. ↩︎
  2. Moore, Amanda R., et al. “RAS-targeted therapies: is the undruggable drugged?.” Nature reviews Drug discovery 19.8 (2020): 533-552. ↩︎
  3. Hyde, Janet S., and Amy H. Mezulis. “Gender differences in depression: biological, affective, cognitive, and sociocultural factors.” Harvard review of psychiatry 28.1 (2020): 4-13. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Suchi



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