Eating Disorders vs. Disordered Eating

By O'Connor Professional Group

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The National Eating Disorders Alliance defines eating disorders as “…serious but treatable mental illnesses that can affect people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group.” Tens of millions of men and women in America will live with an active eating disorder at some time in their lives, surveys have found. Eating disorders can include specific illnesses like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. There are more obscure eating disorders like Pica and “feeding and eating disorders” which are otherwise undefined. Eating disorders, being mental illnesses, have specific criteria for diagnosis and treatment. There are many men and women who may not meet the criteria for an eating disorder, but clearly display many of the mental as well as behavioral symptoms which contribute to the disorder. For these individuals the label “disordered eating” is applied. Though they may not turn to extreme and harmful behaviors which is common in many eating disorders, these individuals suffer from obsessive thinking, often body dysmorphia, and an unhealthy relationship to food as well as body.

Disordered eating is extremely common, particularly in a modern world full of mainstream media messaging. Everyday men and women receive thousands upon thousands of messages telling them what they should eat, how they should look, how much they should weigh and how they should feel about themselves. The media defines what is beautiful as what is perfect- anything less is ‘ugly’ and ‘imperfect’ which, according to the media, is unacceptable. Men and women consume and internalize these messages, adopting harmful beliefs which lead to harmful behaviors.

However, to assume that eating disorders or disordered eating are actually about external appearances is to assume incorrectly. Eating disorders and the process of disordered eating is a deeply complex issue which encompasses one’s personality, history, life experiences, trauma, psychopathology, and environmental conditions. Underneath the surface of a disordered eating issue there is usually a need for control and perfection, the result of life circumstances which created feelings of being out of control and being imperfect. Whether an eating disorder is fully developed and life threatening, or a matter of mindset and problematic, it is essential to confront eating disorders with care, compassion, and clinical expertise. There is a way for men and women to feel good about who they are, how they look, and what they eat. Harmony is possible.

Eating disorders can be fatal without intervention and treatment. Your focus should be on helping you and your family heal while supporting a loved one. O’Connor Professional Group offers premiere recovery assistance services to take the guesswork out of healing. Our private consultations, treatment planning, case management, and aftercare services lets your family be family. Leave the rest to the Professionals. For information, call: (617) 910-3940

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