“Anorexia Nervosa and Anorexia Bulimia are the most common examples of eating disorders,” Clauselle said. “Anorexia Nervosa is a serious and life threatening eating disorder that must be medically diagnosed by a physician. Resulting energy and essential nutrients deficiencies lead to death by self-starvation.”
Karen Koenig, a licensed clinical social worker, an expert on the psychology of eating and the author of “Nice Girls Finish Fat,” defines both compulsive and emotional eating.
“I consider compulsive eating done on automatic (ie, finishing off a bag of chips while watching a ballgame),” Koenig said. “Emotional eating is turning to food to avoid or minimize uncomfortable feelings.”
Bonnie Brennan, the clinical director of Eating Recovery Center’s Adult Partial Hospitalization Program, associated compulsive eating with emotional eating.
“Compulsive eating is the behavior of eating to meet emotional needs,” Brennan said. “It’s not necessarily about hunger of the body, more about hunger for love and acceptance, peace and contentment or even the expression of anger.”
Jessica Setnick, the director of training and education for Ranch 2300 Collegiate Eating Disorders Treatment Program, said in an email that compulsive eating could be related to biology just like eating disorders.
“[Compulsive eating is] a type of disordered eating that can also morph into an eating disorder in the person with the biological propensity, where a person feels that they cannot stop eating or they feel compelled to eat to relieve a chemical imbalance caused by stress,” Setnick said.
<< How disordered eating and other eating disorders affects mental health >>
Bourdo said that eating disorders, disordered eating and compulsive eating all impact mental health in similar ways but at different levels. Here is a list from Bourdo of some mental health side effects of disordered eating:
5) Feeling not enough
6) A pre-occupation with food that detracts from work or family life
8) Withdrawing/isolating from friends and family
9) Rigid – all or nothing thinking