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Disordered Eating

Disordered eating is a complex and varied spectrum of irregular eating behaviors and attitudes that deviate from normative or healthy eating patterns.

What is Disordered Eating?

Disordered eating is a complex and varied spectrum of irregular eating behaviors and attitudes that deviate from normative or healthy eating patterns. It encompasses a range of habits, including restrictive eating, binge eating, purging, and overemphasis on specific food groups.

What distinguishes disordered eating from diagnosed eating disorders is the absence of meeting all the criteria for a specific condition like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Individuals experiencing disordered eating often exhibit a preoccupation with body weight, shape, and food, accompanied by negative thoughts and emotions.

These behaviors can have physical and emotional consequences, impacting nutritional status, overall health, and psychological well-being. Disordered eating may emerge in response to societal pressures, unrealistic body ideals, or as a coping mechanism for stress and emotional distress.

Treatment for Disordered Eating

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective and evidence-based treatment for disordered eating behaviors such as binge eating, restricted eating and other related concerns. At Light On Anxiety, our specialized therapists are trained to work with individuals struggling with disordered eating to address the underlying thoughts, emotions, and behaviors contributing to their difficulties.

Through CBT techniques such as cognitive restructuring, behavioral experiments, and exposure therapy, clients learn to identify and challenge negative beliefs about food, body image, and weight, develop healthier coping strategies, and establish a more balanced and sustainable relationship with food.

Our therapists provide a compassionate and non-judgmental environment where clients can explore their concerns, gain insight into their patterns of food related thoughts and behaviors, and learn practical skills to overcome their challenges.


Medication can be a helpful adjunct to therapy in the treatment of disordered eating, particularly for individuals with co-occurring conditions such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

At Light On Anxiety, our team of psychiatric providers collaborates closely with clients to assess their unique needs and develop personalized medication regimens. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline (Zoloft), are commonly prescribed to address symptoms of depression and anxiety that may contribute to disordered eating behaviors. 

Our approach to medication management prioritizes safety, efficacy, and collaboration with clients to ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment for their symptoms.

Integrating CBT + Medication

At Light On Anxiety, we offer integrated treatment plans that combine evidence-based therapy with medication management to address both the psychological and physiological aspects of disordered eating. Our therapists and psychiatric providers collaborate closely to tailor treatment plans to each individual’s needs and preferences.

  • CBT helps individuals develop coping skills and address underlying cognitive and behavioral patterns contributing to their disordered eating.
  • Medication can provide additional support by reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other co-occurring conditions and enhancing the effectiveness of therapy.

Our approach involves a careful integration of CBT and medication, depending on patient preferences and clinical needs, to address both the biological and psychological aspects of disordered eating.

  1. Collaborative Treatment Planning: Our experienced team works collaboratively to create an individualized treatment plan that assists you in meeting your treatment goals as effectively and rapidly as possible.  
  2. Patient Empowerment: We believe in empowering you with comprehensive information about disordered eating treatment options, allowing you to make informed decisions about your treatment journey. 
  3. Monitoring Progress: Regular monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan are made based on your response and progress. This ensures you are obtaining maximum benefits from the time and energy you are putting into the disordered eating treatment process.  
  4. Ongoing Support:  We offer ongoing support and adjustments to your treatment plan as needed, ensuring a comprehensive and personalized approach to your path to healing.

Your Unique Path to Freedom From Disordered Eating 

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences, recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique.

What are the symptoms of Disordered Eating?

Symptoms of disordered eating can vary widely, and individuals may display a combination of behaviors and attitudes. Common signs may include:

Limiting food intake, often through strict diets, calorie counting, or avoiding specific food groups.
Consuming large quantities of food in a short period, often with a feeling of loss of control during the episode.
Engaging in compensatory behaviors to eliminate consumed calories, such as vomiting, excessive exercise, or laxative use.
Constantly thinking about food, weight, or appearance, with a heightened emphasis on body shape and size.
Engaging in intense or compulsive exercise, often with the primary goal of burning calories.
Using unhealthy methods to control or change body weight, such as extreme dieting or excessive reliance on supplements.
Expressing dissatisfaction with body shape or size, even when others perceive the individual differently.
Avoiding social situations that involve food or eating, leading to isolation.
Erratic eating habits, such as skipping meals or eating at irregular times.
Experiencing intense anxiety, guilt, or shame related to food, eating, or body image.

FAQs about Disordered Eating

The distinction between disordered eating and an eating disorder lies in the intensity and frequency of behaviors related to food, eating, and body image.

Disordered eating encompasses a spectrum of irregular habits that deviate from healthy patterns but do not meet the criteria for a specific diagnosed eating disorder. These behaviors may be occasional or infrequent, such as restrictive eating or occasional binge eating, often accompanied by negative emotions about body image.

On the other hand, an eating disorder represents a more severe and persistent mental health condition with specific diagnostic criteria. Disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa involve chronic disruptions in eating behaviors and emotional well-being, requiring specialized treatment.

The effects of Disordered Eating can affect the physical, emotional and social sphere.

Irregular eating patterns often result in nutritional deficiencies and physical health issues such as gastrointestinal problems and metabolic disruptions.

The emotional toll is profound, leading to anxiety, guilt, shame, and negatively influencing overall well-being.

Social consequences may include isolation due to avoidance of food-related social situations, impacting relationships and contributing to social withdrawal.

Cognitive functions may be impaired, affecting concentration and focus.

Support someone with disordered eating by expressing concern, listening without judgment, and encouraging them to seek professional help, such as a nutritionist or mental health professional. Offer emotional support and avoid comments about appearance or food choices.

Disordered eating is a pattern of irregular eating behaviors that may not meet the criteria for a diagnosed eating disorder. While it is not a formal mental illness classification, it is considered a significant mental health concern.

More About Treatment for Anxiety

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Light On Anxiety CEO Dr Debra Kissen describes how CBT & ERP helps clients move past OCD and other anxiety disorders.

Learn more about how we can create a custom individual treatment plan to fit your goals.

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