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Eating Disorder vs. Disordered Eating: Do You Know the Difference?

Did you know that at least nine percent of the world's population is affected by an eating disorder? With a number like that, it's almost certain that you know someone who has battled this disease. But there's another condition called disordered eating that is closely associated with eating disorders you may not have heard of.

Read on to learn more about these conditions and about eating disorder vs disordered eating.

Eating Disorder vs Disordered Eating

The phrase 'eating disorder' is a clinical term that refers to behavioral patterns associated with food that cause distress. If not treated, these patterns can lead to serious physical and psychological issues and can even be fatal. Eating disorders are most common in children and young adults.

Disordered eating is not a clinical term, but the results can be equally detrimental. This term is used to refer to abnormal eating behaviors that are not associated with hunger or nourishment. Disordered eating can lead to an eating disorder.

Types of Eating Disorders

In discussing what are eating disorders, it is important to understand there are several major types. They vary based on the food intake and the actions taken after eating. They include:

Anorexia Nervosa

This eating disorder is characterized by an unhealthy body image. An individual with this condition will go to extreme measures to reduce or eliminate intaking any calories.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a condition in which an individual eats excessively before undergoing a rapid purge. The sudden purge is caused by self-inflicted guilt or shame.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

This condition is similar to anorexia in that it involves limiting the intake of food. It differs in that it does not involve a negative body image.

This should not be confused with picky eating as this condition can stunt growth in children and cause major weight loss in adults.

Symptoms of Disordered Eating vs Eating Disorder

While there are multiple types of eating disorders, they share some common symptoms. Some of these include:

  • Eating in secret

  • Extreme variation in weight

  • Avoiding social situations with food

  • Abusing laxatives or weight loss supplements

  • Excessive dieting

  • Making excuses to avoid eating

Disordered eating shares some symptoms with eating disorders, including weight fluctuations, extreme dieting, and social withdrawal. The symptoms just aren't as severe.

Recovering From These Conditions

Disordered eating or eating disorder recovery is possible through professional help. During recovery, you may experience setbacks, such as digestive issues. Many treatment programs focus on maintaining physical and mental health and stress the need for a supportive environment.

Much of the recovery process is about how you view food. Since eating is an essential activity, you must be able to establish a healthy outlook on it.

Understanding Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating

Now that you know the difference between an eating disorder vs disordered eating, do you feel confident talking about these conditions? While they are similar, eating disorders are more serious but disordered eating is still dangerous. There are effective treatment programs available.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, check out our programs for help.

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