What is an eating disorder?

So, what is an eating disorder? Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with numerous physical and emotional consequences. According to the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), eating disorders refer to distorted ways in which people consume or absorb their food. These behaviors can significantly impact the persons physical, psychological, and emotional health and functioning. Often people with eating disorders become so preoccupied with food and weight issues that it becomes harder and harder for them to focus on other aspects of their life.

There are several different types of eating disorders. They include; anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorders, pica, rumination disorders, orthorexia, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, and body dysmorphic disorder. Each of these will be explained and highlighted in future posts. It is common for people to only know of one or two types of eating disorders, but as you can see, there are quite a few different forms and varieties of them.

There are others who may have significant issues surrounding food, but they are not severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of an eating disorder. These people may have something called disordered eating. Disordered eating refers to any disturbed eating practices. These can be thoughts, specific behaviors, or attitudes that are related to symptoms that while similar to full-blown eating disorders, are not on the same level or scale. Some disordered eating behaviors include weight and body shape preoccupation, any behavior done to compensate for eating, such as excessive exercise and/or vomiting, or extreme dieting. Both eating disorders and disordered eating entail persistent disturbances in behaviors related to eating.

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