Difference between Anorexia and Bulimia

Key Difference: Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa are two different types of eating disorders. Anorexia is characterized by inappropriate eating habits and reduced food intake. Bulimia is characterized by binge eating and them forceful purging of the food from the body.

 In today‚Äôs world there is a lot of emphasis put on the physique. Everyone wants to look like a supermodel. Even the supermodels want to be skinnier. However, skinnier is different from healthier. Many people take drastic measures in order to be skinny. This skinny ideal has given rise to numerous types of eating disorders. Both Anorexia and Bulimia are two different types of eating disorders.

The general belief is that eating disorders, such as Anorexia and Bulimia only affect women. While, this belief is not true; the main reason behind this belief is that eating disorders are diagnosed approximately nine times more often in females than in males. This means that 10% to 15% of eating disorder patients are male.

Anorexia is officially known as Anorexia nervosa. This eating disorder is characterized by inappropriate eating habits and reduced food intake. It may also be accompanied by an obsession with having a thin figure, an irrational fear of weight gain, and a distorted body perception. People with anorexia, usually do not eat much, barely eating to stay alive. Due to this they often see drastic and excessive weight loss.

The main reason behind anorexia is a distorted self image. People affected by anorexia see themselves as being fat or overweight, even if they are in fact drastically underweight. Majority of people with anorexia do in fact feel hunger, but they deny themselves food and eat very small quantities of food, barely enough to just stay alive.

Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand, is an eating disorder, in which the person eats; in fact they eat a lot. This is called binge eating, in which a person eats large quantities of food in a short amount of time. However, immediately after eating a bulimic suffers from shame and guilt, which leads them to forcefully purge the food from their body. In order to do this, they might force themselves to vomit, or take a laxative, diuretic, or stimulant. Some bulimics even exercise excessively. The guilt is rooted in an extensive concern for body weight. Some bulimics might even fast for an extended period of time.

This cycle of eating and purging can lead to potassium loss and health deterioration. Bulimia is also often accompanied with depressive symptoms that are often severe and might lead to a high risk of suicide. Bulimia is also often accompanied by additional psychiatric disorders, such as mood disorders, anxiety, impulse control, and substance-misuse disorders.

Bulimia is generally considered to be less life-threatening than anorexia. However, bulimia also does occur more commonly than anorexia. Bulimia is also considered to be inheritable, which means that a child of a parent who suffers from or suffered from bulimia is more likely to be also affected by it. There are some individuals who tend to alternate between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

Both Anorexia and Bulimia are treatable. The most common form of treatment is therapy which addresses the reasons behind the disorders. 

Comparison between Anorexia and Bulimia:

 

Anorexia

Bulimia

Type of

Eating disorder

Eating disorder

Definition

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by immoderate food restriction, inappropriate eating habits or rituals, obsession with having a thin figure, and an irrational fear of weight gain.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging, or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed (purging), typically by vomiting, taking a laxative, diuretic, or stimulant, and/or excessive exercise, because of an extensive concern for body weight.

Physical Symptoms

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Thin appearance
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • A bluish discoloration of the fingers
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
  • Soft, downy hair covering the body
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Swelling of arms or legs
  • Chronic gastric reflux after eating
  • Dehydration and hypokalemia caused by frequent vomiting
  • Electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, and even death
  • Esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus
  • Boerhaave syndrome, a rupture in the esophageal wall due to vomiting
  • Oral trauma, in which repetitive insertion of fingers or other objects causes lacerations to the lining of the mouth or throat
  • Gastroparesis or delayed emptying
  • Constipation
  • Mallory-Weiss tears
  • Infertility
  • Enlarged glands in the neck, under the jaw line
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Calluses or scars on back of hands due to repeated trauma from incisors
  • Constant weight fluctuations

Emotional and behavioral symptoms

  • Refusal to eat
  • Denial of hunger
  • Afraid of gaining weight
  • Lying about how much food has been eaten
  • Excessive exercise
  • Flat mood (lack of emotion)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Depressed mood
  • Possible use of laxatives, diet aids or herbal products
  • Being preoccupied with your body shape and weight
  • Living in fear of gaining weight
  • Feeling that you can't control your eating behavior
  • Eating until the point of discomfort or pain
  • Eating much more food in a binge episode than in a normal meal or snack
  • Forcing yourself to vomit or exercise too much
  • Misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas after eating
  • Using dietary supplements or herbal products for weight loss

Signs

  • Skipping meals
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Eating only a few certain "safe" foods, usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing
  • Cooking elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat
  • Repeated weighing of themselves
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Complaining about being fat
  • Not wanting to eat in public
  • Constantly worrying or complaining about being fat
  • Having a distorted, excessively negative body image
  • Repeatedly eating unusually large quantities of food in one sitting, especially high-fat or sweet foods
  • Not wanting to eat in public or in front of others
  • Going to the bathroom right after eating or during meals
  • Exercising too much
  • Having sores, scars or calluses on the knuckles or hands
  • Having damaged teeth and gums

Causes

  • Biological: There may be genetic changes that make some people more vulnerable to developing anorexia.

 

  • Psychological: Some emotional characteristics may contribute to anorexia.

 

  • Environmental: Modern culture emphasizes thinness.
  • Biological: There may be genetic changes that make some people more vulnerable to developing bulimia

 

  • Psychological: Some emotional characteristics may contribute to bulimia

 

  • Environmental: Modern culture emphasizes thinness.

Treatments

Medical care: Might require hospital treatment for issues such as a heart rhythm disturbance, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances or psychiatric problems.

 

Psychotherapy:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family-based therapy
  • Group therapy

 

Antidepressants or other psychiatric medications can help treat mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.

Psychotherapy:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Family-based treatment

 

Antidepressants may help reduce the symptoms of bulimia when used along with psychotherapy.

 

Image Courtesy: becomeanorexic.org, recovery.org

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