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Anorexia Vs Bulimia: The Key Differences & Treatment

Anorexia vs Bulimia

Nowadays, mental health problems are increasing in the same way as physical health problems. There are several types of disorders such as mental, anxiety, psychological disorders, etc. An Eating disorder is a common type of psychological disorder, which is related to body image and food cravings. Eating disorders are known as nervosa disorders. Here we are discussing in detail about Anorexia vs Bulimia and what are the effective treatments for this.

There are various types of nervosa such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED). Eating disorders are characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight or fear of being overweight, a distorted body image, etc.

In this article, we will learn about two common eating disorders Bulimia nervosa and Anorexia nervosa, which are usually referred to as Bulimia and Anorexia, respectively.

Bulimia and Anorexia Similarities and Key Differences

Bulimia nervosa and Anorexia nervosa are different types of eating disorders. These conditions can trigger unhealthy eating habits that can cause mental as well as physical health complications in individuals.

The main difference between Anorexia vs Bulimia eating disorders is the way they make people feel obsessed with food. Due to Bulimia, people may go into serious illness because it is a life-threatening nervosa disorder. A person with bulimia first binge eat and then they take steps to avoid weight gain. This can trigger serious side effects like vomiting caused by overeating.

Anorexia disorder, causes people to become obsessed about their weight and to put a limit on the food they are eating.


Bulimia or Bulimia nervosa (BN) includes three different components that can be either behavioral or cognitive such as

Binge eating: This component includes eating food in excessive amounts in a short period. People feel out of control when engaging in binge eating that is not specific to any age or gender. When someone goes on an eating spree, they usually eat foods that are high in fat or calories such as desserts or sweets, etc.

Inappropriate compensatory measures: Compensatory measures include several methods that individuals use to avoid weight gain or get rid of the fear of being overweight. It’s a behavioral component that includes vomiting, eating laxative foods or medicines, and misuse of diuretics and enemas.

Body image disturbance: Body image disturbance is a cognitive component that creates a negative impact on individuals’ self-evaluation of weight and body type.

Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder and is also recognized as a mental health condition. Without treatments, it can be life-threatening. As statistics suggest Bulimia nervosa affects approximately 1% females and 0.1% males at any one time.

Attempts at purging are now referred to as “Inappropriate Compensatory Behaviors” in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The two different types of bulimia are there that is Purging Bulimia and Non-Purging Bulimia. In Purging Bulimia people will regularly induce vomiting after binge eating, whereas in Non-Purging Bulimiapeople engage in extreme exercise to stop their weight gain after bing.


The behavioral components of Anorexia nervosa are

  • Eating a very small amount of foods
  • Avoiding foods high in calories
  • Sometimes individuals completely skip or miss their meals
  • Seeing or feeling themselves as overweight even when they are underweight
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes to avoid revealing how thin they look among other people
  • Usually weighing themselves
  • Misusing medications to reduce hunger
  • Exercising excessively that can cause light-headedness or consciousness issues

Anorexia is a serious mental health condition that can trigger suicidal feelings and complications linked to extreme hunger in individuals that can also lead to death. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people suffering from anorexia disorder can experience other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, etc.

Symptoms of Bulimia and Anorexia

Several symptoms can help to indicate Bulimia and Anorexia disorders in individuals such as


  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Swollen throat
  • Sore throat caused by vomiting
  • Puffy face
  • Acid reflux caused by stomach acid
  • Bad breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Broken teeth and other oral health problems
  • Dehydration
  • Bloating
  • Irregular or unnatural periods
  • Muscle spasms
  • Osteoporosis or porous bones, which may lead to bone breaking or bone fracture.


  • Dry skin
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Weakness in muscles
  • Hair loss
  • Feeling cold
  • Amenorrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Fragile nails
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Infertility
  • Organ failure
  • Fatigue
  • Low sex drive
  • Unusually low body mass index (BMI)

Side Effects of Bulimia and Anorexia Disorders

Side Effects of Long-term Bulimia

  • Dehydration
  • Heart problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Hormonal problems
  • Diabetes
  • Tooth and gum disease
  • Bulimia face
  • Hoarse voice
  • Inflammation

Long-term Anorexia Side Effects

  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Weight loss
  • Yellowing in the skin
  • Social withdrawal

Treatment Options for Bulimia and Anorexia Mental Disorders

Both Bulimia and Anorexia are serious health conditions. Persons with these disorders should seek medical help from a healthcare professional. Healthcare experts may prescribe some nutritional and psychological treatments and psychiatric monitoring.

Several treatments can be used to treat Bulimia and Anorexia. A few of these are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy technique that aims to help people by changing their thought processes or thought patterns. CBT is based on focusing on and examining someone’s thoughts, beliefs, actions, feelings, etc.
  • Family-based treatments mean parents take the lead in helping kids recover from several mental health conditions and keep them away from anxiety and depression.
  • Nutritional counseling can help to balance and maintain correct nutrition and healthy body weight.
  • Medical treatments such as enema and acid reflux.

Therapies Available for Bulimia and Anorexia Disorders

CBT and enhanced CBT (CBT-E): This is a short-term psychological treatment. This treatment includes 20 sessions, processed in a sequence.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): In this therapy, an individual will practice and learn mindfulness, tolerating distress, emotion control, and improving relationships. DBT treatment has 4 different modules or sessions.

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT): IPT treatment mainly focuses on improving interpersonal functioning. This therapy is intended to be completed within 12-16 weeks.

Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT): CRT treatment technique is designed to improve neurocognitive abilities or thinking skills such as attention, working memory, etc., which leads to improved psychosocial working.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT treatment works on a clinical behavior analysis method. It’s a psychological intervention that uses acceptance and commitment strategies and observance and behavior-change strategies to increase psychological flexibility.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy (PDT): PDT therapy mainly focuses on an individual’s self-awareness and understanding of the influence of his/her past on present behavior. PDT therapy relies on an interpersonal relationship between the therapist and the nervosa patient.


As mentioned above, Bulimia and Anorexia are both serious health conditions that can lead a person to death through suicide. If someone is experiencing eating-disorder-related symptoms, they should find help from a professional health expert. Don’t ignore or neglect mental or physical pain as these can be dangerous.

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