Anorexia vs Bulimia

Anorexia vs Bulimia

by Isabella Coronel

Eating Disorders Like Anorexia and Bulimia Are Serious Conditions

Admitting you have an eating disorder is a brave and monumental step. It is the first thing you must do to heal and have a healthy relationship with food and your body. It takes courage to acknowledge the struggle and to open up about the pain of anorexia and bulimia.

By facing these challenges head-on, you will embark on a transformative journey. You can achieve well-being and self-acceptance.

Remember, you are not alone; help and support are available. Researching your unhealthy relationship with food is an excellent first step!

With the help of Catalina Behavioral Health, recovery is within your reach.

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Anorexia vs Bulimia | Understanding the Key Differences

Eating disorders are complex and diverse, affecting individuals in unique ways. Two of the most well-known eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

They share some similarities. But they are not interchangeable. Their symptoms, behaviors, and causes can differ.

We use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, to review the differences. This DSM is the gold standard for mental health professionals.

Anorexia Nervosa | Behaviors of Distorted Body Image

Anorexia Nervosa

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fear of gaining weight marks anorexia nervosa. This fear leads to self-imposed food restrictions and an unhealthy pursuit of thinness.

Clients with anorexia often have a poor self-image. They perceive themselves as overweight and avoid weight gain.

Behaviors of Anorexia

Some common behaviors associated with anorexia nervosa include:

  • Extreme calorie restriction to prevent weight gain
  • Extreme dieting to shed a few extra ounces quickly
  • Excessive exercise to lose weight
  • Weighing several times a day
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Preoccupation with eating behavior and body size

Causes of Anorexia Nervosa

Research suggests genetic, psychological, and environmental factors can mean someone will develop anorexia.

Know these factors:

  • Family history of eating disorders or another mental health condition
  • Personality traits such as perfectionism, rigidity, or high anxiety
  • Societal pressures and ideals surrounding beauty and thinness. These contribute to poor body image.
  • Traumatic events or experiences of loss

Bulimia Nervosa | Binge Eating Disorder and Food-Related Behaviors

The DSM notes how Bulimia Nervosa clients have recurrent episodes of binge eating. They follow with compensatory behaviors. These include self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, excessive exercise, or fasting.

The unhealthy behaviors come from fear of weight gain and overwhelming guilt or shame after a binge.

Behaviors of Bulimia

Some common behaviors associated with bulimia nervosa include the following:

  • Eating vast amounts of food in a short period
  • Lack of self-control during binge episodes
  • Regularly engaging in compensatory behaviors to “undo” the binge
  • Obsessing over body shape, weight gain or loss, and appearance
  • Fluctuations from normal weight
  • Non-purging bulimia, like abusing stimulants or diet pills

Causes of Bulimia Nervosa

Like anorexia nervosa, the causes of bulimia nervosa are complex. They involve genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Some potential contributing factors include:

  • A family history of eating disorders or any other mental health conditions
  • Personality traits such as impulsivity or perfectionism
  • Societal pressures and ideals surrounding beauty and thinness
  • Difficulties in managing stress or emotional regulation

Yes. Anorexia and bulimia share some standard features. But they are distinct body image disorders with unique symptoms, behaviors, and causes.

Recognizing these differences is crucial in treating bulimia.

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders, Including Anorexia and Bulimia

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders

Both anorexia and bulimia are complex eating disorders. They can arise from many factors. No single cause is clear. But certain risk factors may make some individuals more susceptible to developing one.

Genetic Factors That Mean Someone May Develop These Unhealthy Eating Habits

  • Family history: Does a close relative, like a parent or sibling, have an eating disorder? Obsessive-compulsive disorder? Other mental disorders? These may increase the risk. Many clients have two disorders. Treating both illnesses in an inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment clinic helps reach a healthy weight.
  • Inherited traits: Some genetic traits, like a predisposition to anxiety, perfectionism, or obsessive-compulsive tendencies, may contribute.

Psychological Factors That Cause Distorted Eating Habits

  • Low self-esteem: People with low self-esteem or a negative self-image may be more vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. They may use food restriction, binges, or purges to exert control over their lives.
  • Perfectionism: A drive for perfectionism can contribute. These individuals may view thinness as the physical appearance they must strive for.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsive individuals may have a higher risk of developing bulimia. The binge-purge cycle often involves acting on impulse in response to emotional triggers.
  • Anxiety and depression: People with a history of trauma, anxiety, or depression are likelier to develop an eating disorder. That’s because they may overeat to cope with their emotions.

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Social and Environmental Factors That Contribute to Extreme Eating Habits

  • Societal pressure: Exposure to societal pressures and cultural ideals of beauty and thinness can contribute. That’s because some internalize these standards and feel compelled to achieve them.
  • Peer pressure: Peer influences and the desire to fit in can lead to disordered eating behaviors. This happens in adolescents who develop food obsession, hoping to fit in with friends.
  • Traumatic events: Experiencing traumatic events may trigger eating as a mechanism. Trauma includes physical or sexual abuse, loss, or significant life changes.
  • Sports and activities: Certain activities emphasize a lean physique–gymnastics, ballet, or running. These sports can increase eating disorders. That’s because of the pressure to maintain a specific body shape. Gaining weight was once taboo in these sports. Although the dangers of low body weight are better understood today, the stigma remains.

Risk factors do not guarantee the development of an eating disorder. But understanding these factors can help identify individuals sooner. Early intervention and support can prevent the progression of binge-purge behaviors or extreme weight loss.

Here’s How Ignoring an Eating Disorder Endangers Lives

Eating Disorder Endangers Lives

Living with an eating disorder can be dangerous. It can have serious long-term physical and mental health consequences. Extreme dieting and the desire to binge eat both harm you.

Help is available!

Dangers of Living with an Eating Disorder

Anorexia and bulimia nervosa can lead to many health complications. They can even be life-threatening if left untreated.

Some of the potential dangers and complications include the following physical symptoms:

  • Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies due to low body weight
  • Electrolyte imbalances leading to kidney damage or failure
  • Heart problems, such as irregular heartbeat, high or low blood pressure, or heart failure
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as acid reflux resulting from stomach acid disruption
  • A weakened immune system, frequent colds, or viral infections
  • Bone density loss and osteoporosis
  • Damage to teeth and gums
  • Hormonal imbalances, which can lead to infertility
  • Sleep disturbances or inability to fall asleep
  • Mental health issues, including depression and anxiety
  • Increased risk of self-harm and suicide
  • Muscle weakness and atrophy
  • Growth and developmental issues (in adolescents)
  • Skin and hair health issues
  • Anemia
  • Emotional difficulties

Recognizing the potential dangers of living with an eating disorder is critical. Once you name it, you’ll see the need to get help and treatment.

You can regain your mental and physical health.

Anorexia vs Bulimia: Know the Common Symptoms and Signs

Anorexia Nervosa Symptom

Learn the signs and symptoms of anorexia and bulimia for early intervention. While some symptoms are unique to each disorder, other body image issues overlap.

Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms

  • Significant weight loss: Individuals with anorexia often experience rapid and severe weight loss. It results in body weight well below the normal range for their age and height.
  • Body dissatisfaction: People with anorexia may perceive themselves as overweight. That’s true, even if underweight. This distorted body image leads to an intense fear of weight gain. They experience persistent dissatisfaction with their appearance.
  • Restricting food intake: Those with anorexia often restrict their food intake. This habit leads to extreme calorie deficits. They may also develop rigid eating rituals. They engage in skipping meals or cutting food into tiny pieces. They might also slow-eat or arrange food on their plate in specific ways. In some cases, they stop eating.
  • Excessive exercise: Individuals with anorexia may exercise excessively. They even push themselves when ill or injured.
  • Preoccupation with food and weight: People with anorexia often research diets. They also count calories and weigh themselves often.
  • Social withdrawal: Anorexia can lead to social isolation. Low self-esteem makes them feel self-conscious about their looks.
  • Physical symptoms: Some physical signs of anorexia include fatigue, dizziness, and fainting. They might be physical–hair loss, dry skin, brittle nails, and yellowish skin tone.

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What’s the Difference Between Anorexia and Atypical Anorexia?

Some feel surprised to learn there are two primary types of anorexia.

So what’s the difference between anorexia and its lesser-known counterpart?

Atypical anorexia deviates from the more common type. But the client may not display all the same symptoms. Specifically, they do not have noticeable weight loss.

Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms

  • Binge eating episodes: People with bulimia experience recurrent episodes of binge eating. They lose track of how much food they eat. It leads to a feeling of a loss of control.
  • Purging behaviors: After binge eating, individuals with bulimia engage in purging behaviors. They believe this makes up for the perceived excess calories consumed. Purging methods may include self-induced vomiting or extreme exercise. It might also be the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, and enemas. These recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviors endanger health.
  • Fluctuations in weight: Clients with bulimia may have an average weight. They even normalize gaining and losing weight, so others don’t notice it.
  • Preoccupation with food and body weight: Clients may obsess over weight, appearance, and diet.
  • Frequent bathroom visits after meals: Individuals with bulimia may visit the bathroom immediately. They purge to lose weight.
  • Physical symptoms: Some signs of bulimia include swollen cheeks or jaw, calluses or abrasions on the knuckles (from inducing vomiting), dental erosion, and bad breath. They also have electrolyte imbalances, leading to irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps, or seizures.
  • Mood swings and emotional instability: Clients may have mood swings, irritability, or anxiety. These come from the shame of binge-purge cycles and low self-esteem. They believe they’ll be happier if they lose weight.

Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of anorexia and bulimia. It is critical!

Early intervention and treatment can improve the chances of recovery. If you have any of these unhealthy methods of eating, seek a medical professional.

Personalized and Effective Treatments for Eating Disorders

Effective Treatments for Eating Disorder

Catalina Behavioral Health offers a comprehensive approach to treating eating disorders. We combine various evidence-based therapies with supporting individuals on their journey to recovery.

Some of the treatments that consider the key differences and promote healing are the following:

  • Individual Therapy: One-on-one sessions with a therapist help address the underlying issues. These include thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contributing to the eating disorder. Therapies include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in individual therapy sessions (or a combination of both!).
  • Group Therapy: Group sessions provide support. During group sessions, individuals share their experiences and learn from others. They also learn new coping strategies. Topics covered may include body image, emotion regulation, and stress management.
  • Family Therapy: Eating disorders can affect the entire family. So involving loved ones in the treatment process can help. You will improve communication, understanding, and support for the individual in recovery.
  • Nutritional Counseling: A registered dietitian works with clients to develop a personalized meal plan. They guide clients to achieve a balanced and healthy relationship with food.
  • Experiential Therapies: These therapies include art or music therapy. These encourage self-expression, emotional healing, and personal growth through creative and engaging activities.
  • Medication Management: Medication may help co-occurring mental health conditions. For example, clients may have anxiety or depression contributing to the eating disorder.
  • Aftercare and Relapse Prevention: Ongoing support is essential for recovery. Aftercare includes outpatient therapy or support groups.

The most effective treatment plans consider the individual’s unique needs and circumstances. When you get help and commit to recovery, you can overcome the dangers of living with an eating disorder.

You can achieve full recovery!

Eating Disorder Treatment from an Expert Team

Don’t Let Treatment Costs Keep You From Getting Help for Your Eating Disorder

Financial concerns should not hinder receiving the help and support needed for recovery from an eating disorder–or a combination with another mental illness.

Catalina Behavioral Health commits to making treatment options accessible. We offer clients several insurance coverage and private payment options. We also provide an insurance verification service. We strive to make the process seamless and stress-free.

Insurance Coverage and Verification Service:

Insurance Coverage and Verification Service

Catalina Behavioral Health accepts most major insurance plans. This policy ensures that many individuals can receive coverage for their treatment. We are one of Arizona’s few behavioral health centers accepting AHCCCS. Our staff will verify the details of your policy.

Catalina Behavioral Health offers a free, confidential insurance verification service. We help clients determine the extent of their coverage for eating disorder treatment.

Just provide your insurance information. Our professionals will verify the benefits and discuss the details with you.

Need our help? You are encouraged to reach out now.

Let’s start! We’ll immediately provide a brief mental health questionnaire to start healing

Private Payment Option

Catalina Behavioral Health offers private payment options for our treatment programs. This option is for uninsured clients or those who prefer to pay privately. We understand the importance of accessible treatment.

Reach Out to Catalina for Eating Disorder Recovery Options

Don’t let the treatment costs or doubts of any kind stop you from seeking help for your eating disorder. Catalina Behavioral Health is fully accredited by the Joint Commission and provides a dedicated, effective program for recovery from disordered eating of all kinds.

Contact our team today to take that first step toward a healthier, happier future.

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