Bulimia or Anorexia. What’s the difference?

Sep 17, 18 Bulimia or Anorexia. What’s the difference?
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What is the difference between bulimia and anorexia?

Eating disorders are often misunderstood. For some parents it can be confusing and difficult to relate to. For people with any bulimia or anorexia they can feel isolated and experience shame as many with mental illness often do.  Understanding the difference between the two is an excellent start.

Bulimia

WomensHealth.gov describes bulimia the following way

Bulimia nervosa, often called bulimia, is a type of eating disorder. Eating disorders are mental health problems that cause extreme and dangerous eating behaviors. These extreme eating behaviors cause other serious health problems and sometimes death. Some eating disorders also involve extreme exercise.

[People] with bulimia eat a lot of food in a short amount of time and feel a lack of control over eating during this time (called binging). People with bulimia then try to prevent weight gain by getting rid of the food (called purging). Purging may be done by:

Making yourself throw up

Taking laxatives. Laxatives can include pills or liquids that speed up the movement of food through your body and lead to bowel movements.

[People] with bulimia may also try to prevent weight gain after binging by exercising a lot more than normal, eating very little or not at all (fasting), or taking pills to urinate often.

[People] with bulimia usually have self-esteem that is closely linked to their body image.

Anorexia

WomensHealth.gov goes on to describe anorexia

Anorexia nervosa, often called anorexia, is a type of eating disorder. Eating disorders are mental health problems that cause extreme and dangerous eating behaviors. These extreme eating behaviors cause other serious health problems and sometimes death. Some eating disorders also involve extreme exercise.

[People] with anorexia severely limit the amount of food they eat to prevent weight gain. People with anorexia usually have an intense fear of gaining weight and may think they are fat even when they are thin. Women with anorexia may also exercise too much so that they do not gain weight. Over time, eating so little food leads to serious health problems and sometimes death.

The difference

Bulimia involves excessive food intake and expulsion.  Anorexia involves avoiding food altogether.

What they have in common

Both bulimia and anorexia are mental health problems related to body image and an unhealthy relationship with food and eating.

What to do? Listen and be supportive

If you have a family member or friend that is bulimic or anorexic please listen and not argue with their truth. Even if it is difficult to understand these feelings and perceptions they are real, life altering, and can be fatal.

If you have the above symptoms please reach out for help and support. You can live a healthy life.

National Eating Disorders Association Helpline 1-800-931-2237


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External Resources

National Eating Disorders Association Helpline

Office on Women’s Health (WomensHealth.gov)

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Center for PTSD

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