Compare and Contrast
Anorexia vs. Bulimia
Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are the two most common eating disorders in the world. They are often confused with one another because they share many of the same qualities; however, it is imperative to understand each disorder has its own distinct behavior that makes it quite different from the other. Before I compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the two, lets first take a look at what Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa are. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging, or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed (purging), typically by vomiting, taking a laxative, diuretic, or stimulant, and/or excessive exercise. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by immoderate food restriction and irrational fear of gaining weight, as well as a distorted body self-perception. It typically involves excessive weight loss and usually occurs more in females than in males. Because of the fear of gaining weight, people with this disorder restrict the amount of food they consume.
Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are very similar in many ways. Both eating disorders typically begin after a period of dieting by people who are fearful of becoming obese; driven to become thin; preoccupied with food, weight, and appearance; and struggling with feelings of depression, anxiety, and the need to be perfect. Substance abuse may accompany these eating disorders, perhaps beginning with the excessive use of diet pills. People with either disorder believe that they weigh too much and look too heavy regardless of their actual weight or appearance. Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa also differ in many ways; although people with either eating disorder worry about the opinions of others, those with bulimia nervosa tend to be more concerned about pleasing others, being attractive to others, and having intimate relationships. They also tend to be more sexually experienced and active than people with anorexia nervosa. On the positive side, people with bulimia nervosa display fewer of the obsessive qualities that drive people with restricting-type anorexia nervosa, to control their caloric intake so rigidly. On the negative side, they are more likely to have long histories of mood swings, becoming easily frustrated or bored, and have trouble coping effectively or controlling their impulses. Individuals with bulimia nervosa also tend to be ruled by strong emotions and may change friends and relationships frequently. Also, more than one-third of bulimics display the characteristics of a personality disorder. In clinical characteristics, Anorexia nervosa has onset in mid adolescence whereas Bulimia usually starts in late adolescence or adulthood. Weight at diagnosis is markedly decreased in Anorexia Nervosa while it is usually normal in Bulimia. Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual period) is usually present in patients with Anorexia Nervosa while it is usually normal in the other group of patients. Binge eating is present in 25-50 % of patients with anorexia nervosa while it is present in 100 % of patients with Bulimia nervosa. Mortality is around 5% in 10 years for Anorexia nervosa while it is very low in Bulimia nervosa.
Antisocial behavior can be found in patients with Bulimia Nervosa while it is rare in patients with Anorexia nervosa. Some of the signs and symptoms of both eating disorders are slightly similar but also have their differences and severities in the two. Bulimia can often be harder to spot than Anorexia because the person will often still maintain a normal weight or even be slightly overweight. In this situation, the person is generally eating more frequently or the amount eaten at a single session is many times an appropriate, healthy amount. Again, with this eating disorder, control becomes the important point. The person may binge and then feel guilt, shame or fear afterwards about the amount of food he/she has just eaten and then must exercise control by participating in a compensatory behavior to get rid of the food that was eaten. The signs and symptoms of Bulimia include: Secrecy surrounding eating; these individuals with bulimia seek to allow time for bingeing and subsequent purging. Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs of vomiting, and evidence of laxatives or diuretics may provide some indication of the disorder. Some Bulimics may go to the kitchen after everyone else has gone to bed to binge, take unexpected walks or drives at night, or have excessive desire for privacy in the bedroom or bathroom.
They have strange or irregular eating behaviors such as, avoidance of eating around others; skipping meals; taking very small portions when eating with others; drinking a lot of water or diet soda (to aide vomiting); taking very small bites, and chewing them excessively. They binge (eating abnormally large amounts of food) with no apparent change in weight. They have an excessive, rigid exercise regimen; however, it is often difficult to tell a serious athlete, from an athlete with bulimia, because both may train excessively and not eat enough to compensate for the caloric usage. They have inaccurate body image; will often believe they weigh more than they really do. Most have scarred, discolored or callused finger joints or backs of the hands. Thrusting the fingers down the throat to induce vomiting may damage the outer surfaces of the hands. Most have problems with mouth and teeth; like discolored and decalcified teeth, or swelling and bleeding of cheeks and gums. They also have gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and diarrhea and sporadic or nonexistent menstrual periods (in females).
Anorexia has several physical, emotional, and behavioral signs and symptoms besides weight loss: fears gaining weight, won’t eat in front of others; weighs food and counts calories; has dry skin and thinning hair on the head, fine hair all over their body, and brittle nails; acts moody or depressed; doesn’t socialize; has absent or irregular periods feels cold frequently; has difficulty concentrating; takes pills to urinate or have a bowel movement (BM); doesn’t eat or follow a strict diet; constantly exercises; moves food around the plate; doesn’t eat it; talks about weight and food all the time; adopts rigid meal or eating rituals; feels fatigued or dizzy; has a flat mood, or lack of emotion; frequent checks the mirror for perceived flaws, and wears baggy clothes to hide appearances Treatments for eating disorders will generally include combinations of psychotherapy, hospitalization, medications and self-help strategies, such as support groups.
The path to recovery can be a very long one since the importance of food and losing weight/preventing weight gain has become such a critical one in the person’s life. It is an area that they have had control over for a long period of time and recovery involves giving up that control, which is a very scary step for those with an eating disorder to take. In conclusion, the symptoms and affects of eating disorders are vastly different than making the decision to diet and live a healthier lifestyle. Dieting is about losing some weight in good ways and not about gaining control or changing your life based solely on what you eat and what you weigh. Beauty and happiness in life are about much more than just a number that appears on your scale.