Eating Disorders vs. Disordered Eating: What’s the Difference?

Eating Disorders vs. Disordered Eating: What’s the Difference?

Illustrated person wondering and has question marks surrounding them.

You may be wondering if your eating patterns are significant enough to be classified as an eating disorder. In this article, we will review some signs of disordered eating and explain the differences between disordered eating and an eating disorder.

Signs of Disordered Eating

Disordered eating is any behavior indicating that food is playing a stressful role in someone’s life. Unhelpful eating patterns can create a strain on someone’s physical health, mental wellness, and relationships.

Many disordered eating behaviors are normalized, even praised, by our society without any acknowledgment of the toll that it takes on our well-being.

Signs of disordered eating include:

  • Skipping meals or going long periods of time without eating
  • Rigid food rules about when, what, or how much to eat
  • Frequent dieting
  • Avoidance of eating with others
  • Hiding or sneaking food
  • Limiting or avoiding certain foods or food groups, such as carbs, fat, sugar, etc.
  • Excessive worry about their weight or size
  • Feeling out of control around food
  • Checking their weight frequently or checking their reflection in the mirror multiple times per day

For example, if you avoid sugar due to fear of gaining weight or due to an all-consuming fear of becoming unhealthy, your eating is likely disordered.

Having rules about not eating after a certain time of day is a disordered eating behavior.

Going to the gym to “work off” what you ate is disordered.

Just because you do any of these behaviors doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an eating disorder. However, it could be an indicator that you need to explore your relationship with food.

Disordered Eating Vs. Eating Disorders

So, what is the difference between disordered eating and having an eating disorder? Disordered eating is a term used to describe a set of eating behaviors, whereas an eating disorder is a diagnosis based on those behaviors. Someone may display many harmful, disordered eating behaviors but not meet official diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.

It can also be challenging to admit that you have an eating disorder. Many people may recognize that they have a problem, but find it easier to describe their challenges as “disordered eating” or “having a complicated relationship with food.” For some, this can be used as a way to avoid getting the treatment they need to live a full and healthy life.

If you think that you may have disordered eating, please reach out for support. There is a very thin line between disordered eating and an eating disorder. You may actually have an eating disorder without realizing it.

Treating Eating Disorders

Disordered eating can advance quickly into an eating disorder, which can have devastating effects on your mind and body. Here at Shoreline, we provide a safe environment to explore your relationship with food and support you on your journey to recovery.

Don’t wait until you get sicker when you can take steps toward healing today; give us a call at 562-434-6007 or complete our contact form to get started.