Disordered Eating vs Eating Disorder: What’s the Difference?

Disordered Eating vs Eating Disorder

The main thing differentiating disordered eating from an eating disorder is the level of severity and the frequency of behaviors. It’s all about degree.

Those who engage in disordered eating will likely have similar behaviors to a full-blown eating disorder, but at a lesser frequency or a lower level of severity.

It’s still to be taken seriously. Though the symptoms might not be as extreme, those individuals may be at a higher risk of developing a diagnosable eating disorder and are more likely to experience anxiety and depression and are still susceptible to medical consequences.

When considering if disordered eating is impairing functioning, we look at whether thoughts about food, body, and exercise impact one’s concentration or focus, if socializing or routines are impacted due to exercise or food rules, if food consumption or restriction is used as a way to cope with stressors, and how much discomfort thoughts of food and body cause.

The best-known contributor to the development of an eating disorder is body dissatisfaction and self-esteem being rooted in body shape, weight, and size.

Even if someone doesn’t meet the full criteria for the 4 diagnosable eating disorders, they may still not be maintaining a healthy relationship with food or their bodies.

Watch other videos in this Psych in 60 series to learn more about disordered eating and leave your questions in the comments below!

Click here for more content by Juliet Kuehnle, MS, NCC, LPC!

Juliet Kuehnle, MS, NCC, LPC
Juliet Lam Kuehnle is a licensed professional counselor. She specializes in helping all ages with eating disorders, body image, self-esteem, picky eating, grief & loss, mood disorders, trauma, and with the LGBTQ population. She also works with lots of middle and high schoolers to help them navigate their challenges and stressors. She is trained in EMDR therapy and uses this often with trauma, phobias, anxiety, and other areas in which clients feel stuck. She spends her free time with her husband and two young daughters, watching Duke basketball & golf, and in the music scene!


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