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There are several definitions for eating disorders available, all of which refer to food, but there is no simple definition that encapsulates the unique experience from the cause and contributing factors, to behaviours, experiences, and recovery.
According to NICE ‘Eating disorders are characterised by persistent disturbance of eating or eating-related behaviour which leads to altered intake or absorption of food and causes significant impairment to health and psychosocial functioning.’
The DSM-V, a psychiatric manual for diagnosing mental illness, details 4 eating disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), including:
The National Eating Disorders Association (2022) have a list of warning signs and symptoms organised by emotional and behaviour, and physical signs. Don’t forget, there will be different warning signs for each eating disorder, but some commonalities include:
Keep in mind, there is a difference between disordered eating and eating disorders. Disordered eating is characterised by engaging with behaviours that do not honour hunger, or perhaps rest, such as dieting or excessive exercise, but is not a preoccupation that impacts and interferes with life (Zucker, 2022) Therefore you or someone you may know may identify with a few of the above and not have an eating disorder.
Beat Eating Disorder UK: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/
SEED (Support and Empathy for people with Eating Disorders): https://seed.charity/