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Are There Some Eating Disorders That Are More Important Than Others?

I feel I need to speak to this because it seems to be brought up frequently when I am working with my eating disorder clients. There is a belief both with sufferers and the general population that eating disorders are hierarchical with typical anorexia at the top and binge eating at the bottom. This is incredibly destructive for many reasons but I am going to list 3 (of many) reasons below.


  1. It interferes with one’s ability to recover. Not only does this send the message that those with anorexia are the most sick, it also tends to tell sufferers and others that there is a hierarchy in terms of who is most worthy of help and/or treatment.


  1. It both prevents and delays individuals from seeking help when they need it and causes them to suffer much longer than they have to. This belief can cause individuals to suffer in silence longer as the signs of their eating disorder go unnoticed at best or normalized at worst (both by themselves and by the people in their lives). Getting people who struggle with eating disorders to seek treatment is challenging enough. If the belief is that their disorder isn’t serious because they don’t fit the description for typical anorexia, it makes the process of receiving support and believing they deserve it that much more difficult.


  1. It simply isn’t true. Eating disorders are mental health disorders each with their own set of complications but all with a significant amount of pain. The more we try to rank eating disorders in terms of severity the more we minimize each individual’s experience. Additionally, it isolates each individual who is suffering instead of helping them to realize they are not alone.


This is just the beginning of a very important conversation that I hope we keep having. This belief perpetuates the false notions we have about eating disorders all the time. Why do you believe creating a hierarchy of eating disorders is so destructive? Let me know in the comment section below.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Patricia May 31, 2016, 12:46 am

    As someone who has suffered from binge eating disorder for 48 years, I have often felt stigmatized. Most of my life I’ve had to listen to comments like, “just stop eating crap and exercise more”. These people have no understanding of binge eating disorder. An anorexic can hide her body. A bulimic can often appear to look “normal”, but a fat woman cannot hide. I have been rejected over and over again, especially by men in this culture, who will not date a fat woman. I have finally given up. I eat a healthy well balanced diet in a mindful. I swim, walk, and go to the gym. None of this has made much difference to my weight. Why? Because I still binge on occasion to assuage my loneliness. I am a senior woman with few friends. I know that bingeing is not the solution, but after 48 years of this insanity, I feel there is no hope for me.

  • Shannon Cox June 9, 2016, 7:01 pm

    Personally, I’m frustrated that my disordered eating is not taken seriously enough to qualify for any of the excellent ED programs available. If you binge daily, feel awful about yourself because of it (to the point of non-functioning at times), and purge in less extreme ways, you’re not ‘bad enough’ and need to fork up the hundreds per visit to get the help you need.

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