What is the difference between Anorexia and Bulimia?

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Sarah C Share
Feb 15, 2016


Bulimia often involves binging (overeating) and purging (purposeful vomiting or laxative use) while Anorexia focuses around overexercising or starvation to reduce weight.



Anorexia and Bulimia are similar in many ways (they both involve abnormal eating habits) and some people may suffer from both, however, there are usually a few key differences.

Anorexia is a psychological disorder where the sufferer experiences extreme stress and discomfort around consuming food, gaining weight and other related processes. Someone with anorexia will often severely limit food intake and try to keep their weight as low as possible (often through starvation or excessive exercise).

Sufferers often have very poor body image and experience severe guilt and discomfort after eating or gaining weight. It is also common for anorexia to develop as a way of gaining control during a time where they feel they have none (e.g. after a traumatic event).

Signs of anorexia often include a low BMI, tiredness, susceptibility to illness, feeling abnormally cold, fine hair covering the body, pale skin, anxiety around food, believing they are fat (distorted body image), constant talk of diets and food and secrecy around meals (e.g. eating on their own) or their body (e.g. wearing baggy clothes). However, this is not to say that someone at a healthy weight cannot suffer as anorexia is a mental illness and therefore, the difficulties experienced cannot always be seen.

In bulimia, a person experiences similar feelings but it is common for them to binge (eat large quantities of food in a short period of time) then "purge" by deliberate vomiting or laxative use. This is due to the guilt from eating "too much".

A bulimic can often show little signs of physical poor health, as the binge purge cycle can result in a balanced weight. However, this is not to say that it doesn't result in damage to the body. Repeated vomiting damages the lining of the throat while the acid can lead to tooth decay. Laxatives can also do the body a lot of damage when abused.

It is worth noting that in some circumstances, a person might suffer from both illnesses. Commonly, this involves fasting and/or exercising with a low weight as well as vomiting or laxative use if they eat even a very small amount.

Both illnesses are incredibly complex, and contrary to popular belief, have nothing to do with being "vain" or going on an "extreme diet". Eating disorders are very serious illnesses that often develop as a consequence of a negative disturbance or event in someone's life.

I hope this helps; let me know if I can do anything else.

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