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Monday, November 23, 2009

Eating Disorders vs. Disordered Eating

In the world of medical professionals who treat eating disorders, there are specific criteria for diagnosing someone with one of these disorders. There are 3 main categories of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. There's also something called "eating disorder not otherwise specified", which means you've got an eating disorder but it doesn't fit neatly into one of these categories.

These categories are defined in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a listing of psychological disorders. For each, there is a set of criteria that a patient must meet to receive the diagnosis. This is so that we are all clear what disorder you've got, and for insurance reimbursement.

As someone who treats eating disorders, I see a lot of people who don't meet the criteria for one of these disorders, but are never-the-less in a lot of emotional pain about their relationship with food. We all have a relationship with food, even though food is a set of inanimate objects. If food is making the decisions about when, what and how much you eat, rather than you making these decisions, I think you have a disordered relationship with food.