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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - Disordered Eating VS Eating Disorder

In the spirit of World Mental Health Day on October 10, I invite you to learn about eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors. “Disordered eating” and “eating disorder” are two words switched up, but they are two distinct disabilities that harm a person’s well-being differently. While a person with an eating disorder may exhibit disordered eating behaviors, disordered eating does not equate to an eating disorder diagnosis. It is necessary to distinguish the two, as they differ in severity, symptoms, and causes.

People who display disordered eating behaviors don’t completely meet the diagnostic criteria of eating disorders. Disordered eating is not a properly recognized condition, but a type of abnormal eating behavior that occurs regularly and has the potential to become dangerous. They may not feel the extreme guilt and fear that individuals with eating disorders feel. Disordered eaters may not experience as much obsession and a toll on daily functioning. Disordered eaters may avoid major food groups, eat to deal with stress or negative emotions, or for reasons other than nourishment or hunger. It could also include binging, restricting, or purging on an irregular or limited basis.

A couple more disordered eating behaviors include calling food “good” or “bad,” misusing diuretics or laxatives, self-induced vomiting, and more. Furthermore, just like there are different types of eating disorders, there are different types of disordered eating. For some, disordered eating is the act of excessively exercising. For others, it could be emotional eating or skipping meals. Emotional eating is a common type of disordered eating and often begins in childhood and persists into adulthood.

The cause of disordered eating is individual and complex. However, some common causes of disordered eating are

  • media: social media, online influencers, television, and advertisements portraying unrealistic body ideals or unhealthy relationships with food

  • societal pressure: pressure to comply with society’s expectations of bodies and what’s deemed “normal”

  • mental health conditions: anxiety, OCD, or other underlying disorders

  • stress: difficult life changes or periods in life taking a toll mentally

  • trauma: makes people more vulnerable to disordered eating and eating disorders

An eating disorder is generalized as a complex condition characterized by abnormal eating behavior impairing an individual’s health and well-being. The three most common types of eating disorders are binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa. However, other types of eating disorders are less known but just as harmful.

Participating in eating disorder behaviors is mentally and physically draining. It can interfere with a person’s life satisfaction and ability to function. Taking away from “normal” functioning is a strong indication that an eating disorder is present. Furthermore, there are a couple of distinct signs a person may have an eating disorder:

  • constantly feeling cold

  • constantly wearing baggy clothes to hide the body

  • avoiding social situations involving food or eating

  • engaging in periods of extreme food restriction

  • exercising excessively

  • hiding, stealing, or hoarding food

  • only eating in private

Having an eating disorder often causes the person to seclude themselves from society. As a consequence, the person may develop other mental health conditions like depression. Other physical effects include dental problems, menstrual irregularities, and organ failure.

Both disordered eating and eating disorders are abnormalities in a person’s eating behavior and must be addressed. Without addressing the problems, the person’s life could be in jeopardy. Talking to someone you trust and meeting a professional to seek help is important. Local clinics and systems to seek help may or may not exist. Therefore, you could contact the following organizations for support:

Unfortunately, many people live with disordered eating behaviors or eating disorder behaviors. Fortunately, millions have recovered, changed their habits, and created a better future for themselves. But they couldn’t have done it without the help of others and hardship. Even though there may be fear of letting go of control, the image you created for yourself, and the habits you made, recovery is the best option in the long run. By choosing abnormal eating behaviors, there are so many positive things you are letting go of.

If you currently suffer from disordered eating or an eating disorder, know that you are stronger than you imagine, and you have the power to change your life for the better. If you know a person who is dealing with either, encourage their progress and their efforts, not their physical changes. Yet, watching someone you love suffering is not easy, so I applaud you. If you are in the midst of recovery, great job. Recovery is not smooth sailing, so you are so strong for taking the giant first step.

Writer: Isara Moriya




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