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Disordered Eating: How It Relates to Eating Disorders and Mental Health

By Rheyanne Weaver HERWriter
Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

I've discussed disordered eating in the first part of my two-part series on the subject, What Is Disordered Eating? but how does disordered eating relate to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, or other terms like emotional eating and compulsive eating?

Each person will define them somewhat differently, but in general, it appears that disordered eating can encompass other terms like emotional and compulsive eating, whereas eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are actual mental disorder diagnoses.

<< Disordered eating and other eating disorders >>

Amy Bourdo, the executive director of the Eating Disorder Foundation, said in an email that these terms share many similarities, but they do have some differences.

“Although disordered eating shares signs and symptoms with compulsive eating and eating disorders, one’s behavior is not to the extent that they would be diagnosed with having an eating disorder,” Bourdo said. “However, without intervention it could take on a life of its own, possibly turning into a full-blown eating disorder.”

Her definition of disordered eating is in my first article. Here are her own definitions of compulsive eating and eating disorders:

“Compulsive eating involves an irresistible impulse to decrease emotional distress through the behavior of uncontrolled eating or binging,” Bourdo said.

“Activities of daily living can be mildly to severely impaired. An eating disorder is an irresistible impulse to manage overwhelming emotions through controlling food that leads to a highly disturbing preoccupation with food and weight control that impairs their activities of daily living to a significant degree.”

Renee Clauselle, the founder and head psychologist of the company Child and Family Psychology, and the founder and director of School Mental Health at St. John’s University, said in an email that eating disorders are actual diagnoses, in comparison to disordered eating, which is unhealthy eating behaviors.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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