As a parent it can be heart-breaking to watch your child struggle with their food. Whether this is seen as ‘picky eating’ or something else, it’s hard to understand when it’s an actual problem and how we go about helping them. 

We’ve all heard the terms “disordered eating” and “eating disorders”, but are they really the same? Let’s clear this up…

Eating Disorders: The Clinical Side

Eating disorders are not just about watching what you eat. They’re serious illnesses that can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or background. Think of them as falling on the extreme end of disordered eating.

Types of Eating Disorders:

Each comes with its own set of criteria, as outlined in the DSM-5.

What to Watch For:

Whatever someone’s weight, these behaviours can take a toll on both physical and mental health and it’s important we recognise this.

It’s important to understand that disordered eating is very much a spectrum.

Disordered Eating: The Grey Area

Disordered eating isn’t a diagnosis in itself but rather a range of irregular eating behaviours that don’t fit the criteria for a specific disorder.

What it Looks Like

Similar symptoms to eating disorders but perhaps less severe or frequent. It often stems from a distorted relationship with food, exercise, and body image but can also include sensory sensitivities and social/communication difficulties, too.

Spotting the Signs

So, how do you know if your child is struggling with disordered eating? These are the symptoms to watch out for:

Navigating ‘Normal’ Eating

Understanding what non-disordered eating looks like can provide a helpful benchmark.

It’s essential that eating habits are regular, varied, flexible and enjoyable. In contrast, disordered eating often involves rigidity, guilt, and a preoccupation with food or body image.

The Impact

Whether it’s an eating disorder or disordered eating, the consequences can be serious.

Conclusion: Getting Help

If you suspect your child is struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to seek support.


Live webinar:

Disordered Eating & Eating Disorders in Autistic People

Peer-to-peer Support:

Online CUPPA&CHATs (every other Wednesday evening)

☀️In-Person Cuppa&Chats in Derby (every other Friday morning) – 

Recorded Webinars & Resources:

Sunshine Academy