Anorexia vs Bulimia – Difference and Comparison

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia is an eating disorder that often stems from a distorted body image, which may result from emotional trauma, depression, or anxiety.

Some people may view extreme dieting or weight loss as a way to regain control of their lives any different emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms can signal anorexia.

The physical symptoms can be severe and life-threatening.

What is Bulimia?

Someone with bulimia may develop an unhealthy relationship with food over time.

 They may get caught up in damaging cycles of binge eating and then panic about the calories they’ve consumed. This may lead to extreme behaviors to prevent weight gain.

Here are two different types of bulimia. The attempts to purge are used to differentiate them. The new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) now refers to attempts to purge as “inappropriate compensatory behaviors”:

  1. Purging bulimia. Someone with this type will regularly induce vomiting after binge eating. They may also misuse diuretics, laxatives, or enemas.
  2. Non-purging bulimia. Instead of purging, someone with this type may fast or engage in extreme exercise to prevent weight gain after a binge.

Many people with bulimia will experience anxiety because their eating behavior is out of control.

Difference Between Anorexia and Bulimia

 Anorexia and bulimia are both eating disorders. They can have similar symptoms, such as distorted body image. However, they’re characterized by different food-related behaviors.

For example, people who have anorexia severely reduce their food intake to lose weight.

People who have bulimia eat an excessive amount of food in a short period of time, then purge or use other methods to prevent weight gain.

Comparison Between Anorexia and Bulimia

Parameter of ComparisonAnorexiaBulimia
DefinitionEating disorder wherein sufferers fear weight gain and avoid eating as a result. Mainly affects young women.Eating disorder wherein sufferers go through a cycle of binging (overeating) followed by purging, due to a fear of weight gain. Mainly affects young women.
Age of onsetEarly teen years.Late teen years.
Behavioral and psychological symptomsObsession with food, weight, and a “thin” body image; extreme fear of weight gain; compulsive exercise; depression and anxiety; low self-esteem; body dysmorphic disorder.Obsession with food, weight, and a “thin” body image; extreme fear of weight gain; compulsive exercise; depression and anxiety; low self-esteem; body dysmorphic disorder.
Physical symptomsUsually extremely underweight and unhealthy figure; physical weakness, deterioration, and organ dysfunction; absent menstruation; memory loss, feeling faint, etc.Many within “normal” weight range for height/age, but can be underweight; physical weakness, deterioration, and organ dysfunction; absent menstruation; memory loss, feeling faint, etc. Noticeable oral/dental deterioration.
Relationship to foodAvoids eating, frequently goes on fasts or restrictive diets, tendency to be secretive about eating habits and rituals.Goes through periods of binging — overeating — and purging, by vomiting or heavy use of laxatives, diuretics, etc.
CausesNo official cause. Can be related to culture, family life/history, stressful situations, and/or biology.No official cause. Can be related to culture, family life/history, stressful situations, and/or biology.
TreatmentMay require hospitalization. Outpatient or inpatient treatment options. Dietitians, doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists often part of treatment.Unlikely to require hospitalization. Outpatient or inpatient treatment options. Dietitians, doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists often part of treatment.
PrognosisVaries. Slight majority who seek treatment report full recovery in years to come; up to one third still affected or struggle with relapses. One of the deadliest mental disordersVaries. Slight majority who seek treatment report full recovery in years to come; up to one third still affected or struggle with relapses.

References

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Walter-Kaye/publication/12543168_Anorexia_and_Bulimia_Nervosa/links/00b7d51825d4932254000000/Anorexia-and-Bulimia-Nervosa.pdf
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010440X21000407