Whether you’re one of the lucky few who have lived a life without being touched by mental health or you’ve been unfortunate enough to suffer with a mental illness yourself, we’re all familiar with the most common eating disorders.
Anxiety, bulimia, even orthorexia, the majority of us are familiar with these eating disorders and most of us can even name some of the most common, perhaps stereo-typical symptoms but how many of you knew that ‘disordered eating’ is a ‘thing’?
I didn’t until I was told by my GP after being quizzed about my symptoms that in fact, I was suffering with ‘disordered eating’. If you’re not familiar with this kind of eating disorder, this is essentially the name for a condition that is made up of multiple different eating disorder tendencies.
The National Eating Disorder Collaboration state how “disordered eating can include behaviours that reflect many but not all of the symptoms of feeding and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder or other specified feeding and eating disorders”, which to clarify, pretty much means you’ve got genuine problems associated to food and eating but you just don’t quite fit the mould for a particular eating disorder.
As a diagnosed sufferer of disordered eating, I felt a whole array of emotions when being told that was the condition I was suffering with. As someone who has spent years feeling extremely confused by my issues with eating and dieting, to be diagnosed with a condition I didn’t even realise existed and doesn’t really sound like a ‘real problem’, didn’t make life any easier.
It probably sounds strange to anyone who has never experienced this mindset but when you’re struggling with a mental health problem, getting a name for your issues can actually be one of the first steps to accepting and understanding what’s happening in your brain and help you move towards helping yourself but to be told you have something you’ve never heard of, doesn’t have the same affect.
For me personally, I felt like a bit of a fake when I was diagnosed with ‘disordered eating’ as opposed to an eating disorder with a ‘proper name’ that people have heard of and recognise as being a genuine problem. I instantly felt my issues wouldn’t be taken seriously by friends, family and possibly even medical professionals because in my mind, this so-called ‘disordered eating’ wasn’t as severe as an eating disorder because although I had a few of the tell tale signs of a variety of the most common eating disorders, I didn’t show enough symptoms to be fully diagnosed with any of them.
I was left confused to say the least. I didn’t know how to address my eating and dieting problems because it seemed like I just didn’t have a real problem, just a collection of weird eating habits that were kind of an issue but not as much of an issue as other people were suffering with, which overtime, seemed to make my eating problems worse.
I felt like I needed to lean more towards one eating disorder or another, so I could get an official diagnosis that I would understand and everyone else would understand and that’s way I could get help and be ‘cured’ but the reality is, the brain doesn’t work like that.
You don’t get to choose how your mental health works. You don’t get to hand-pick the problems your mind suffers with and when it comes to eating disorders and disordered eating, you don’t get to dictate for yourself which elements of eating, dieting and weight you struggle with, your brain is going to do all of that for you and as with all mental illnesses, you just have to roll with it.
I personally feel disordered eating isn’t given enough air time. I think the direction the world is moving in when it comes to talking freely about mental health and in particular eating disorders, is fantastic. The fact that both males and females, of all ages, can now speak out about their eating disorders online and offline with less judgement than ever before, is a real step in the right direction but ‘disordered eating’ in particular isn’t very well known and certainly isn’t talked about enough.
I’m sure there’s other people out there struggling with the same feelings as me when it comes to be diagnosed with disordered eating opposed to an eating disorder. That feeling of not suffering as much as someone with a more common eating disorder, the feeling of being a bit of a fake and the confusion of not knowing how to get help because you just don’t fit in a particular mould and I want to get a conversation started about this mental health problem and make suffers feel more confident in getting help.
You can’t dictate how your mental health issues show themselves, you can only work with what you’re given, so if disordered eating is your problem opposed to a named eating disorder, never feel like you’re suffering less and know that you deserve the help and support as much as every other sufferer because all mental health problems are real, no matter what they’re called.
Useful websites and helplines: