What is the Difference Between Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa?
People mistakenly think of eating disorders as phases, fads or lifestyle choices. They are actually serious mental disorders which impact you physically, psychologically and socially. Eating disorders should be taken very seriously. They can be life-threatening.
Anorexia and bulimia are two of the most common eating disorders. While they share some symptoms in common, they are characterized by different food-related behaviors. People with anorexia severely reduce their food intake to lose weight. People with bulimia eat excessive amounts of food and then employ different methods of purging what they’ve eaten to avoid weight gain.
If you are battling an eating disorder, you’re not alone. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) estimates that some 30 million Americans are living with an eating disorder. Perhaps you’re reading this article because you’re looking for help—
If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, we can help. Have a confidential conversation with a counselor right now. Call (844) 747-7772.
Anorexia and Bulimia
Anorexia Nervosa is likely the most well-known eating disorder. It generally develops during adolescence or young adulthood and tends to affect more women than men. Anorexia Nervosa sufferers generally view themselves as overweight, even if they’re dangerously underweight. They tend to constantly monitor their weight, avoid eating certain types of foods and severely restrict their calories.
Common symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
- Being considerably underweight compared to people of similar age and height.
- Very restricted eating patterns.
- An intense fear of gaining weight or persistent behaviors to avoid gaining weight, despite being underweight.
- A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight.
- A heavy influence of body weight or perceived body shape on self-esteem.
- A distorted body image, including denial of being seriously underweight.
Anorexia is officially categorized into two subtypes—a restricting type and a binge-eating and purging type. Individuals with the restricting type lose weight solely through dieting, fasting or excessive exercise. Individuals with the binge-eating and purging type may binge on large amounts of food or eat very little. In both cases, after they eat, they purge using activities including vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics or exercising excessively. In severe cases, anorexia can result in heart, brain or multi-organ failure and death.
Bulimia Nervosa is another well-known eating disorder. Like anorexia, bulimia tends to develop during adolescence and early adulthood and appears to be less common among men than women. Bulimia sufferers binge eat—frequently eat unusually large amounts of food in a relatively short period. They then attempt to purge to compensate for the calories consumed and relieve discomfort. Forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas and excessive exercise are the main means of purging. In practice, bulimia appears similar to anorexia nervosa. Individuals with bulimia, however, usually maintain a relatively normal weight, rather than becoming underweight.
Common symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating, with a feeling of lack of control
- Recurrent episodes of inappropriate purging behaviors to prevent weight gain
- A self-esteem overly influenced by body shape and weight
- A fear of gaining weight, despite having a normal weight
Side effects of bulimia may include an inflamed and sore throat, swollen salivary glands, worn tooth enamel, tooth decay, acid reflux, abdominal irritation, severe dehydration and hormonal disturbances. In severe cases, bulimia can cause a stroke or heart attack.
What causes an eating disorder like these?
It isn’t clear what causes anorexia or bulimia to develop. Many experts believe it may be due to a combination of complex biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
- Genetics. You are more likely to develop an eating disorder if you have a family member who has one. This may be because of a genetic predisposition to traits associated with eating disorders, such as perfectionism. More research is needed to determine whether there is truly a genetic link.
- Emotional well-being. People who have experienced trauma or have mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, may be more likely to develop an eating disorder. Stress and low self-esteem may also contribute to these behaviors.
- Societal pressures. The current Western ideal of body image, self-worth, and success equated with thinness can perpetuate the desire to achieve this body type. This may be emphasized further by pressure from the media and peers.
Your Diagnosis and Treatment
There is no medical or laboratory test to determine if you have an eating disorder. Medical and mental health professionals will run a number of tests to help them make a diagnosis. These tests can also help them assess any related complications. A physical exam, bloodwork, a history work-up—these things will get the ball rolling.
What treatment options are available?
Eating disorders can be treated through a combination of behavioral modifications, therapy, and medication. Recovery is a continuous process.
The Honey Lake Clinic Difference
At Honey Lake Clinic, our experienced staff, licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists understand that effective treatment for eating disorders requires a multifaceted, faith-based approach, involving healing of the body, mind, and spirit. Our unique treatment programs specifically and deeply address all three spheres, offering each client his or her greatest chance at wholeness and transformative growth.
This holistic approach and a combination of key factors makes our mental health program at Honey Lake Clinic different from the others in the country.
You’ll benefit from Honey Lake’s—
- Integration of a Bible-based approach and sound psychological principles
- Experienced, compassionate, and highly trained clinical staff
- Individualized treatment with a low caseload of patients per therapist
- Practical curriculum focused on decision-making mechanics and skills
- Emphasis on holistic healing of the mind, body, and spirit