What Is the Difference between an Eating Disorder and Disordered Eating?

What Is the Difference between an Eating Disorder and Disordered Eating?According to the Mayo Clinic, eating disorders are a serious condition in which a person is so preoccupied with food and weight that she cannot focus on other matters. They are debilitating conditions that require professional help to treat.

Symptoms of Anorexia

A person with anorexia nervosa is so obsessed with being thin, that he may starve himself. Other symptoms include the following:

  • A distorted self image supported by a fear of gaining weight, which a person avoids by refusing to eat
  • Irritability on one extreme and lack of emotion on another
  • Withdrawing from others and focusing more on excessive exercise
  • Menstrual irregularities, constipation and abdominal pain
  • Dry skin most likely due to dehydration
  • Irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, and feeling cold

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, anorexia may be the cause.

Symptoms of Bulimia

Often referred to as bingeing and purging, this condition is marked by a person eating an excessive amount of food and then ridding herself immediately after eating. Other symptoms of bulimia include the following:

  • A distorted self image supported by a low self esteem
  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Self-induced vomiting, use of laxative to stimulate bowel functioning
  • Damage to teeth and gums, sores in the mouth and throat
  • Menstrual irregularities, constipation and abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular heartbeat

These symptoms are quite dangerous, especially long term. Get help today for an eating disorder.

Information on Disordered Eating

The DSM-IV-TR classifies disordered eating as a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder. Symptoms of disordered eating fall into several major categories, including the following:

  • Preoccupation with weight characterized by weighing yourself often, making weight or body shape so important that it affects how a person feels about himself
  • Hyper-vigilance characterized by monitoring even minor fluctuations in weight, cutting out food groups to maintain weight, compulsively counting calories, restricting food consumption to less that 1,200 calories per day, fasting, skipping meals, making yourself vomit or even smoking to curb your appetite
  • Inappropriate or unhealthy eating behaviors such as dieting, excessive exercising, abusing diet pills or laxatives, forcing yourself to not eat after a certain time in the evening even if you are hungry and lying about your eating patterns or weight

While none of these problems indicates an eating disorder, they are problematic and require professional help to break.

Consequences of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating

Eating disorders and disordered eating can cause serious physical problems, including the following:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure
  • Reduction of bone density
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Severe dehydration that can result in kidney failure
  • Fainting, fatigue and overall weakness
  • Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure
  • Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels

In severe cases, eating disorders and disordered eating can be life-threatening.

Help for Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating

The sooner you get help for someone with an eating disorder, the greater the likelihood that she can recover. To be assured of confidentiality, and to receive answers to your questions, call our toll-free helpline any time; we are available 24 hours a day. We want to help you find the right treatment program to handle eating disorders. We can provide you with information about insurance and treatment resources. We are here to help you get well.