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5 Major Differences Between Anorexia and Bulimia

Eating disorders can be deadly. However, in the current era, one’s image seems to have become everything. People often suffer from a sense of distorted body image and thus, a low self-esteem, eating disorders have become some of the most common health problems that affect a large number of people across the world. Anorexia and Bulimia are two types of eating disorders that have affected a large portion of the global population. According to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), about 1% of the American women would develop anorexia and 1.5% would develop bulimia.(1) Women are found to be more prone to the condition.

Similarities Between Anorexia and Bulimia

To begin with, Anorexia and Bulimia are eating disorders that stem out of a distorted body image and impaired reasoning. In both cases, we see that the Anorexia and Bulimia patients have an aversion of letting enough calories enter their systems. The distorted behavior and habits center around food and the problems, out of which their behavior stems, happens to be completely psychological.

It is on the dint of these similarities people often feel that both Anorexia and Bulimia refers to a similar type of condition with a similar set of symptoms, effects and hence resulting treatments. This is one of the biggest misconceptions that should be harbored. In case a person is facing such an eating disorder or has a loved one suffering from the condition moves ahead with this misconception then he or she will never get the right help and treatment. So let us take a look at the differences between the two conditions.

5 Major Differences Between Anorexia and Bulimia

Anorexia and bulimia, both being eating disorders have some similarities and yet the differences between the two conditions are quite huge. Let us take a look at them:

Differences Between Anorexia and Bulimia With Respect to Calorie Restriction

Although patients of both the conditions of Anorexia and Bulimia try to resist the entry of calories into their bodies so that they can cut down on their weight, the mechanism of doing so is very different in both the contexts. The patients of Anorexia generally avoid eating food and have a really low intake of calories. On the other hand, we see that patients suffering from Bulimia have the tendency of binge eating and then purging on a regular basis. Bulimia is marked by a tendency on the part of the patient to vomit soon after their meals so that the calories cannot be used up by their bodies. They even make use of laxatives, diuretics, and enemas. This type of bulimia is known as purging bulimia. There is yet again another strain of bulimia – the non-purging bulimia where the patient induces in very extreme regimes of workout and exercise to not gain any weight.(2)

Differences Between Anorexia And Bulimia With Respect To Weight Gain Or Loss

In the case of Anorexia, the person often suffers from acute weight loss that decreases the BMI to a great extent. However, in the case of Bulimia, the patient might experience a fast and high fluctuating body weight where there could be gain and loss of weight of as many as 5 to 20 pounds within a week.

Differences Between Anorexia And Bulimia With Respect To Physical Symptoms

Patients who suffer from anorexia often have a rather sickly appearance. They suffer from symptoms like fatigue, weakness, spurts of dizziness and fainting. The skin of such patients has yellowish dry skin and a bluish tinge to their fingers. Patients with bulimia have bloodshot eyes since the blood vessels of the eyes are often busted. Due to relentless induced vomiting, there can be sores, calluses, and a scar on the knuckles.

They also suffer from an acute sensitivity of mouth where there could be receding gums and erosion of the tooth enamel. Bulimia patients also have enlarged parotid or the salivary glands.(3)

Differences Between Anorexia and Bulimia With Respect to Side Effects

Patients suffering from anorexia often develop cardiac problems, high levels of fatigue and also renal disorders with time. Since your vital organs require nutrition to remain healthy and function in a proper manner, hence patients suffering from Anorexia, in acute cases, starve themselves to death.(4) People suffering from bulimia due to their habit of purging and vomiting on a regular basis happen to develop problems of the esophagus and also dental problems. The body begins to show signs of a lack of the necessary vitamins.(2)

Differences Between Anorexia And Bulimia With Respect To Treatment

Treatment of both conditions can be done through a combination of different processes. Various methods such as psychiatric counseling, medication, and nutrition management are required to handle the condition efficiently. Since both the conditions originate from an acute psychiatric problem, it is really important that the distorted mental condition must be addressed. To begin with, CBT is one of the most effective methods of treatment that can be used for treating both the conditions.(5)


Anorexia and Bulimia are conditions that are not affected by the gender of the person. These conditions can be found both in men and women. However, women seem to be more susceptible to the condition. Both Anorexia and bulimia can be harmful and damaging for a person.

However, treating both the condition as similar will not be correct. Their natures and characteristics are quite different and discerning the difference correctly is extremely important to treat the condition properly. However, in both the conditions the patient will require support, care, and patience from their families and friends. Treatment procedures can be long and quite tedious.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 5, 2021

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