Disordered Eating and Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are complex, chronic illnesses largely misunderstood and misdiagnosed. The most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. No one knows exactly what causes an eating disorder, however it can be found among all socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural groups. Eating disorders have numerous physical, psychological and social ramifications from significant weight preoccupation, inappropriate eating behaviour and body image distortion. Many people with eating disorders experience depression, anxiety, substance abuse, childhood abuse and may be at risk of osteoporosis and heart problems.

 

Disordered Eating

Disordered eating is a term used to describe eating habits or patterns that are irregular. Many different types of disordered eating habits exist but for the most part these habits do not add up to a diagnosis of an eating disorder. Excluding whole food groups (for example, all fats or all carbohydrates), eating only specific foods, eating only foods of a specific colour, eating only foods of a specific texture, not eating certain foods together in a sitting and not eating specific foods from the same plate can all be types of disordered eating.

Disordered eating can also be described as changes in eating patterns that occur in relation to a stressful event, an illness, personal appearance or in preparation for athletic competition. Disordered eating also involves people who have no time to eat or plan their meals properly, who often eat fast food or miss meals especially breakfast and who are not aware of their body signals of hunger or fullness.

 

Differences between Eating Disorder and Disordered Eating

  • Eating disorders are chronic and most often even complex illnesses which need concrete treatment and therapies for effective control. Disordered eating on the other hand is not complex enough to be categorised as an illness.
  • Some of the prominent forms of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and bulimia. All of them are known to have damaging repercussions on health. Disordered eating might not have specific names as such. Some forms of dieting or resorting to diet pills and weight loss supplements can also be considered as forms of disordered eating.
  • Whereas eating disorders are most often persistent conditions which might last through the years if left untreated, disordered eating sprees are considered to be rare phenomenon. They might occur as isolated spells and no prevalent trends can be established for the same.
  • Eating disorder can often be considered responsible for serious repercussions. Alternatively, disordered eating is considerably less harmful leading to some nutritional insufficiencies alone.
  • Disordered eating is mostly atypical while the same cannot be said about eating disorders.
  • Disordered eating can often develop into an eating disorder. The reverse however, is not possible.

 

Several studies in the last decade show that eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours are related to other health risk behaviours including tobacco use, alcohol and drug abuse, delinquency, unprotected sexual activity and suicide attempts.

While disordered eating can lead to weight loss or weight gain and to certain nutritional problems, it rarely requires in depth professional attention. However, it may develop into an eating disorder. If disordered eating becomes sustained, distressing or begins to interfere with everyday activities, then it may require professional evaluation.