Unless you have personal experience with the two, you probably aren’t aware of the difference between eating disorders and disordered eating. Although both are an unhealthy relationship with food, there is a significant difference between disordered eating and eating disorder. Eating disorder or disordered eating treatment is necessary to achieve recovery from either.
If you’re a parent concerned about your teen’s eating habits or body image, you’re likely wondering, “What’s the difference between disordered eating and eating disorders?” Here’s what parents need to know about an eating disorder vs. disordered eating, the signs to watch for, and how to get help for your teen.
What’s the Difference Between Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders?
On the surface, it can seem like there’s not much difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating. Both are related to habits and attitudes surrounding food and are often impacted by mental health concerns related to body image.
However, there are some key differences when it comes to an eating disorder vs. disordered eating. Disordered eating is a pattern of unhealthy or problematic eating habits, while eating disorders are clinically diagnosable mental health conditions. Left untreated, disordered eating can eventually progress to become an eating disorder.
Disordered eating is the term given to a collection of unhealthy eating habits. A teen struggling with disordered eating may show many of the signs of disordered eating or just a few.
Parents may not initially realize that a teen’s odd eating habits indicate a serious issue. However, disordered eating is a sign that a teen is struggling with mental health concerns – and these tend to worsen without professional help.
An eating disorder is a diagnosable mental health disorder. The signs of an eating disorder and disordered eating can be similar, but an eating disorder is more severe.
An eating disorder can lead to serious illnesses and health conditions without treatment. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
Know the Signs: Eating Disorder vs. Disordered Eating
Parents concerned about a teen’s eating habits should know the signs of an issue. These two concerns can have similar signs. It’s also common for teens to hide the full extent of their actions or thoughts related to food. Common signs to watch for include:
- Eating unusually large or small portions of food
- Irregular eating habits
- Counting calories or dieting
- Avoiding certain types of food
- Vomiting after eating
- Excessive exercise
- Comments about food, weight, or body image
Ultimately, diagnosing whether a teen is struggling with an eating disorder vs. disordered eating is a job for a mental health professional, not a parent. The best thing a parent can do is to watch for the above signs and seek professional help if they’re present.
Help for Disordered Eating at Foothills for Red Oak Recovery
Parents don’t necessarily need to know the difference between disordered eating and eating disorder to notice that their teen’s eating habits are unhealthy. Both eating disorders and disordered eating bring serious long-term consequences to be physical, mental, and emotional health.
A teen showing signs of disordered eating is in trouble. The habits built through disordered eating can worsen, eventually leading to an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia.
If you’re concerned about your teen’s eating habits, don’t wait to get help. Foothills at Red Oak Recovery is an adolescent treatment center that works with teenage male clients struggling with disordered eating.
Our programs help teens address the underlying issues contributing to disordered eating and teach tools and skills for rebuilding a healthy relationship with food.
For more information, call 866.300.5275 and ask about the teen disordered eating program at Foothills for Red Oak Recovery.