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What Is Disordered Eating?

Disordered eating

What Is Disordered Eating?

Disordered eating can be described as a range between normal eating and an eating disorder. Persons with disordered eating may show different symptoms and traits, although they may not be severe at first. Although dieting is the most common type of disordered eating, restrictive eating, inflexible or irregular eating, and compulsive eating are all under the spectrum of disordered eating.

Physical and Emotional Signs of Disordered Eating

Disordered eating is a condition that may affect an individual’s physical and emotional wellbeing. It is advisable to seek help if you experience the following signs.

Physical Signs of Disordered Eating

  • A change in bowel habit
  • Fainting
  • Stomach pain and complaints
  • Changes in hair and skin
  • Notable fluctuations in weight
  • Feeling weak, tired, and dizzy
  • Dental problems related to acid

Emotional Signs of Disordered Eating

  • Prioritizing exercise over other activities
  • Bothered by your body image and what you weigh
  • A sudden dislike of certain groups of food and a preference for healthy food
  • Withdrawal from social eating activities

Other traits for people engaging in disordered eating may include:

  • Skipping meals
  • Use of diet pills
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Binge eating
  • Fasting, among others

 How is Disordered Eating Harmful?

Disordered eating, especially dieting, is the major cause of the eating disorder. An eating disorder is a life-threatening condition and cannot be viewed as a lifestyle choice.

Limiting the number of meals you should take per day can be fatal. When we eat less than we should or do not eat at all, the metabolic process is reduced, leading to binge eating or overeating. Dieting can also lead to depression and anxiety.

Disordered eating can negatively impact an individual’s quality of living and reduce the ability to overcome stressful situations. People who engage in disordered eating often feel guilty and shame, especially in cases of binge eating or overeating. These people isolate themselves and avoid social gatherings where food is available. This may later lead to low self-esteem and social withdrawal, which can hurt one’s mental health.

Eating Disorders Caused by Disordered Eating

Related: Difference Between Disordered Eating and Eating Disorder

Anorexia Nervosa

This is the most common eating disorder. It usually develops during adolescence and mainly affects more women than men. Individuals with anorexia view themselves as overweight even if they are underweight. Due to this, they are very watchful for their weight, and they avoid specific diets and are always watching their calorie intake.

Common symptoms of anorexia nervosa may include:

  • Restricted eating patterns
  • Being underweight compared to people of the same age
  • Behavioral change to avoid weight gain
  • A will to keep losing weight
  • Denial of being underweight

People with anorexia nervosa tend to have a restricted eating pattern and are always watching what they eat. This may be because they do not want to gain weight or fear being overweight. 

Anorexia nervosa is categorized into two types- the restricted type and binge/purging type.

People with restrictive types may need either diet, fast, or engage in excessive exercise to lose weight.

On the other hand, people who engage in binge eating or purge eating may either eat a lot or very little. In both cases, they induce vomiting, have excessive exercise, or use laxatives or diuretics.

Anorexia can be fatal since it can lead to brain, heart, or multi-organ failure.

Bulimia Nervosa

As with anorexia, bulimia is a well-known eating disorder that mainly occurs during early adulthood and adolescence. It is also more common in women than in men.

People with bulimia eat a large amount of food at a go. During these eating episodes, the individual eats until they are painfully full. These individuals are not able to control how much food they eat. After they binge eat, they tend to purge to relieve gut discomfort and compensate for the calories consumed. People with bulimia are likely to induce vomiting, fast, or over-exercise as a way of purging.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa may include:

  • Episodes of binge eating with no control
  • Self-esteem brought by body shape and weight
  • Purging behaviors to avoid weight gain
  • Fear of gaining weight despite having normal weight

People with bulimia maintain average weight instead of being underweight.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is among the common eating disorders in the United States. It commonly begins at adolescence, although it can develop later in life. Symptoms associated with binge eating disorder are similar to those of bulimia or the binge eating type of anorexia.

Individuals with binge eating disorders eat a large amount of food at a given time and do not purge.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating a large amount of food until painfully full, even if not hungry
  • Lack of control when binge eating
  • Lack of need of purging after binging

People with binge eating disorders are either overweight or obese. This increases their risk of developing life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or stroke.

Rumination Disorder

This is a condition whereby an individual regurgitates food they had previously chewed and swallowed, then re-chews it, either re-swallows it or spits it.

Unlike other medical conditions such as reflux, rumination disorder is voluntary and occurs within 30 minutes after eating.


This is yet another eating disorder that involves craving for non-food things.

People with pica crave things such as soil, soap, dirt, paper, pebbles, among other non-food substances.

This type of eating disorder can occur in childhood as well as adulthood. However, it is most common in children, pregnant women, and people with mental challenges. People with this type of eating disorder are prone to infections, poisoning, and gut injuries.

What is Disordered Eating – Seeking Help

If you or anyone within your knowledge is engaging in disordered eating, it’s advisable to seek medical guidance. Disordered eating leads to eating disorders that may be fatal or has a negative impact on one’s health. Early intervention means the problem is solved before it gets worse. Besides, people are ready to help and prevent your disordered eating before it becomes an eating disorder.

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