Anorexia Nervosa versus Bulimia Nervosa
“It is estimated that 8 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder” (Statistic Brain, 2012). The two most common disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia and bulimia are both serious eating disorders, but both are often confused. While they are similar in some ways, they also have some distinct differences. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are both psychiatric disorders that are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behaviors. Each disorder has similarities and differences in signs, symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Signs and Symptoms
"Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric disorder characterized by an unrealistic fear of weight gain, self-starvation, and conspicuous distortion of body image. The individual is obsessed with becoming increasingly thinner and limits food intake to the point where health is compromise" (Stoppler, 2012). People with anorexia try to maintain a body weight that is less than normal for their height and weight. Some common physical symptoms that can be noted are extreme weight loss, thin appearance, dizziness and fainting, thinning of the hair, constipation, absence of menstruation, irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, and dehydration. There are also behavioral symptoms that accompany this disorder such as the refusal to eat, lying about how much food they have eaten, excessive exercising, a flat mood, irritability, and a preoccupation with food. Anorexia nervosa has an onset in mid adolescence whereas bulimia usually starts in the late adolescence or adulthood. "Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of secretive excessive eating followed by inappropriate methods of weight control, such as self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive exercise" (Stoppler, 2012). Some physical symptoms with bulimia are dry mouth, enamel erosion, tooth decalcification, red or cracked lips, swollen cheeks and jaws, bloodshot eyes, swollen salivary glands, imbalanced electrolytes, and low blood pressure. Unlike people with anorexia, bulimics are not as easily identify based on their weight. People with bulimia experience more of a weight fluctuation versus the extreme weight loss or thin appearance of someone who has anorexia. Their weight could seem normal. Bulimics go through recurrent episodes of binge eating. "Binge eating is an uncontrolled ingestion of large quantities of food in a discrete interval, often with a sense of lack of control over the activity" (“Binge Eating,” 2013). Bingeing is then followed by inappropriate methods of weight control. They can consent of self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive exercising. Binge eating is required for the diagnosis of bulimia. People with anorexia can binge eat but it is not required for the diagnosis.
Despite the varied symptoms of anorexia and bulimia, their causes are similar. No one knows what causes either disorder. There are medical experts that believe there is a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors that may cause these disorders. Some theories suggest that genetics plays a role. “About one fifth of people with anorexia have a relative with an eating disorder” (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011). Serotonin is a brain chemical that is associated with depression. Having an abnormality with serotonin is believed to be a cause for both disorders. Psychological factors such as low self-esteem or obsessive-compulsive behavior play a role with anorexia and bulimia. Another component to the theories are the environmental factors. Our culture emphasizes thinness. The media is filled with images of thin models and actors.
Even though both disorders may have similar causes there are differences with the treatments. There are several types of treatments for both disorders. People