Eating Disorders: The Difference Between Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa

What is the difference between bulimia and anorexia nervosa?

Bulimia and anorexia nervosa are eating disorders that are classified as psychological problems. Both disorders can — and often do — cause serious and even deadly consequences.

While anorexia nervosa involves starving yourself to death in order to lose weight, bulimia is quite a different method of losing weight, altogether.

Bulimia is typically defined as cycles of bingeing and purging — eating large amounts of food and then forcibly getting it out of one’s body. Consuming large amounts of food is called binging. Purging can involve making oneself throw up, or excessive use of diuretics, laxatives and diet pills.

Normally, the binge and purge episodes happen at least once a week for around three months.

What Are the Risk Groups of Bulimia and Anorexia?

Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia target the same demographic — very young women. The secretive nature of these eating disorders, makes it hard to know just how many people are bulimic or anorexic. In the United States, experts estimate that as many 1 in every 5 women in high schools and college show symptoms of eating disorders — although for some, it may be a temporary problem. Age of onset is usually around 18.

Is it Possible to Have Bulimia but not Anorexia?

In many cases, bulimia can develop all on its own. Sometimes it can be intermittently found along with anorexia. So, there will be a pattern of little food intake, followed by tremendous binging with the cycle continuing.

The two disorders affect your personality in much different ways. In those affected by anorexia, there’ll be a tendency for suppression of all urges. Conversely, with bulimia, there is a tendency to act impulsively. This includes use of drugs, shoplifting, multiple sex partners, and out of control spending.

What Physical Dangers are Associate with Bulimia?

With purging the physical effects range from inflammation of the esophagus, enlarged salivary glands, edema of the pancreas or stomach, and even tooth decay. Also, gum disease caused by regurgitating stomach acids, which can damage sensitive gum tissue.

Treatment for Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa

Bulimia and anorexia nervosa both are life-threatening eating disorders and a qualified medical professional should be contacted immediately if you or someone you know may be suffering from either disorder.

It is often recommended that persons with eating disorders seek help from a doctor in person. Using online forums and Internet chat boards for eating disorders can sometimes reinforce negative behavior and misconceptions about the disease.



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