Best 101 Guide on Disordered Eating VS. Eating Disorder

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 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.

What is an eating disorder?

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

They are often seen worked 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.

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

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 behavior 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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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 behaviors shown by the affected individuals, this disorder is also regarded as binging or purging eating disorder.


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 behaviors. They are often seen trying to induce vomiting, involving themselves in intense workouts.
  • Such behavior is seen very frequently in people with this disorder
  • Feeling of losing control of oneself.
  • They are always focused on how they look. Body image matters most to them.

The affected individual’s behavior 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.

Binge eating disorder

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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 afterward.

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

The following are the signs of binge eating disorder:

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

Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

The intensity of Obsession associated with disordered thoughts and behaviors 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.

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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 of any food items.
  • The affected individuals are often seen to undergo a period where they try to impose a severe food restriction on themselves.
  • Abnormally extreme changes in the body weight
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling depressed.
  • Avoid parties, get-togethers, or any occasions 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.

What is disordered eating?

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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 that of  bulimia nervosa

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

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

Types of Disordered Eating

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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

Symptoms of Disordered Eating

Here are the symptoms of disordered eating:

  • Extreme dieting
  • Regular changes in the body’s weight can be gaining of the body weight or losing the body weight.
  • Practicing 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 behaviors.

Disordered Eating vs. Eating Disorders

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

Here the “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(EDNOS)

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.

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 towards a full-blown eating disorder; it is never impossible to contain disordered eating patterns.

Avoid trendy diets

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Currently, they 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 practicing this, you can have a variety of food in your diet

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!

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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 the 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.

Bottom line

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 towards eating disorders. However, hope doesn’t fade.

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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 without undertaking any medication.

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

I hope you view disordered eating vs. eating disorders now.


Edited by Pooja Motwani


While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. 

Do note that any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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