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What Qualifies As An Eating Disorder? A Therapist Weighs In

The question of what qualifies as an eating disorder is an important one. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families, yet they can often be overlooked or misunderstood. As such, it is important to understand what qualifies as an eating disorder, and why it is so important to seek help. To gain a better understanding of the topic, we spoke to a licensed therapist with expertise in disordered eating to get their insight on the matter. In this blog post, they share their thoughts on what constitutes an eating disorder, and why seeking professional help is key.


The Different Types of Eating Disorders


Eating disorders can have devastating physical and emotional consequences. While there is a wide variety of disordered eating patterns, the most commonly recognized types are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extreme weight loss due to self-imposed food restriction and excessive exercise. Individuals with anorexia often have an intense fear of gaining weight, distorted body image, and an excessive drive for thinness.


Bulimia nervosa is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic use, fasting, or excessive exercise. Individuals with bulimia typically attempt to hide their binging and purging from others and feel ashamed or disgusted with themselves after binging episodes.


Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by frequent episodes of consuming large quantities of food in a short period of time while feeling out of control over their eating behavior. Unlike bulimia, individuals with binge eating disorder do not typically use compensatory behaviors to try to counteract the bingeing.


It is important to note that disordered eating may present in different forms and individuals may not fit into any one category. Regardless of type, disordered eating patterns should be taken seriously and can have serious mental health implications if left untreated.



It can be difficult to recognize when someone is struggling with an eating disorder. Many people suffering from an eating disorder may not show any visible signs. However, there are certain warning signs that could indicate someone has an eating disorder, including:


• Abnormal changes in weight or body shape

• Intense fear of gaining weight

• Preoccupation with food, dieting and body size

• Eating large amounts of food in a short period

• Becoming obsessed with calories and nutrition labels

• Engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as purging, excessive exercise, fasting, or taking laxatives

• Refusal to eat certain foods or entire food groups

• Dramatic mood swings or emotional outbursts

• Feeling embarrassed or ashamed about how much they eat

• Lying about how much food they’ve eaten

• Avoidance of social situations involving food

• Withdrawal from activities once enjoyed


If you think someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to reach out and talk to them. While these signs may indicate disordered eating, only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose an eating disorder.


The Consequences of Disordered Eating


Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can have long-lasting effects if not treated properly. Disordered eating behaviors can lead to both physical and psychological consequences.


Physically, disordered eating can cause an array of medical complications. Depending on the type of eating disorder, individuals may experience dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, organ damage, and even death. Restrictive eating disorders can cause a variety of digestive problems, fatigue, and weakened immune systems. Binge eating disorder can cause obesity, high cholesterol, and an increased risk for diabetes.


Psychologically, eating disorders can lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and feelings of guilt or shame. It’s common for people with disordered eating to also struggle with substance abuse or other compulsive behaviors. Eating disorders can be isolating and lead to difficulty connecting with friends and family.


It is important to recognize the signs of an eating disorder early on and seek help before the consequences become more severe. A licensed therapist for eating disorders can develop plans that address the underlying causes of disordered eating and help restore physical and mental health.


How Eating Disorders Affect Your Mental Health


Eating disorders can have a severe impact on your mental health. Disordered eating can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. It can also cause an increase in stress levels, depression, and anxiety. People with eating disorders often feel isolated, as they become preoccupied with their diet and body image. This can lead to difficulty in forming relationships and maintaining connections with others. In extreme cases, eating disorders can even lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.


Eating disorders can cause significant physical problems as well. Malnutrition due to an inadequate diet or rapid weight loss can cause a number of health problems including organ damage, electrolyte imbalances, and weak bones. Severe cases can even lead to death due to complications related to the eating disorder.


It’s important to recognize the signs of an eating disorder and get help if needed. Seeking professional treatment from a licensed therapist is the best way to recover from disordered eating and maintain good mental health.



When it comes to seeking help for an eating disorder, there are several options available. The most important thing is to take the first step and reach out for help.


The first step is to speak with a health care professional. This could be a family doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or dietician. They will be able to assess the severity of your condition and suggest the best course of treatment. It’s important to have a thorough evaluation before you start any treatment plan.


If you feel comfortable doing so, it can also be beneficial to join a support group or talk to a counselor or therapist. A counselor for eating disorders can provide guidance and support to help you understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors surrounding food and eating.


It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out to family and friends who are willing to listen and provide emotional support. Let them know that you need help and that you’re willing to take steps to get it.


Finally, it’s important to remember that recovery is possible. With the right support and treatment, you can gain control over your eating and your life. Be patient with yourself, as recovery takes time and effort. Take small steps towards healing each day and seek help when needed. With the right guidance and support, you can make positive changes in your life and reclaim your relationship with food.


To learn more about counselors in Denver for eating disorders, read Connected Brain Counseling's webpage here.

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