anorexia vs bulimia

Anorexia vs Bulimia: Differences, Signs, and Treatment

Last Updated: Tue, January 23, 2024

People of various ages can be affected by eating disorders. They can be lethal if not treated by an expert. Anorexia and bulimia are two of the most common eating disorders. 

This makes people want to know more about their differences, giving way to the anorexia vs bulimia notion. 

In this article, we will talk about anorexia vs bulimia. I will talk about their differences, signs, and treatment. 

Anorexia vs Bulimia: What Is Anorexia? 

Anorexia nervosa, or anorexia, is an eating disorder and metabolic illness. It is characterized by significant weight loss and extreme thinness as a result of self-starvation.

According to information collected by the National Eating Disorders Association, around 2% of American girls and 0.3 % of boys will acquire anorexia over their lives. 

Anorexia can affect anyone of any gender, age, race, or cultural background. However, it most typically affects adolescent girls and women. Athletes, dancers, and anyone who works or studies in a sector that stresses lean physiques are also vulnerable.

Anorexia vs Bulimia: What Is Bulimia? 

Bulimia can lead to an unhealthy relationship with eating the longer it sticks. People with bulimia may become trapped in harmful binge eating patterns, then stress about the calories they've consumed.

Bulimia is divided into two categories: purging bulimia and non-purging bulimia. 

Those with purging bulimia frequently induce vomiting after excessive eating. They may also abuse laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

On the other hand, people with non-purging bulimia avoid weight gain after a binge. Someone with this type of bulimia may also fast or engage in severe activity instead of purging.

Anorexia vs Bulimia: What Are the Differences? 

Anorexia and bulimia have significant differences. 

For one, anorexics are prone to following strict diets. They may also reduce their food intake to the point that they become malnourished or even die.

Some persons who suffer from anorexia also overwork themselves. If a person is already malnourished, this can cause them to pass out. Anorexia patients also vomit or use laxatives to reduce weight.

On the other hand, bulimia is characterized by bouts of binge eating followed by purging. An episode may include overeating followed by vomiting, the use of laxatives, or the use of enemas to eliminate the calories absorbed.

Anorexia vs Bulimia: Signs of Anorexia 

Here are the signs of anorexia:

Purging for Weight Control 

People with anorexia are known for their purging behavior. Self-induced vomiting and excessive use of laxatives or diuretics are examples of these purging practices. The use of enemas is also a possibility.

Anorexia with binge eating and purging is characterized by periods of binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting.

Purging with massive doses of laxatives is another option. These drugs are also used to try to reduce food absorption and speed up the emptying of the stomach. 

Obsession With Food, Calories and Dieting 

Anorexia is characterized by a constant fear of food and rigorous monitoring of calorie intake.

Anorexics may keep track of every item they ingest, including water. They even memorize the calorie amount of foods on occasion.

In addition, their obsession with food is exacerbated by the fear of gaining weight. Anorexics may also drastically reduce their calorie intake and adhere to strict regimens. Some people will even cut off individual foods or entire food groups from their diets, such as carbohydrates and fats. 

Changes in Mood and Emotional State

Anorexia patients frequently exhibit signs of sadness, anxiety, hyperactivity, perfectionism, and impulsivity. 

These symptoms might make people with anorexia lose interest in things that others find fun. 

Moreover, extreme self-control is also typical. This trait is demonstrated through restricting food consumption in order to lose weight.

Distorted Body Image 

Body image refers to a person's opinion of their physical appearance and how they feel about it. 

Anorexia is defined by a negative body image and bad thoughts about one's physical self.

In fact, anorexic participants in one study had preconceptions regarding their physical form and look. They also have a strong desire to be skinny. 

Anorexia vs Bulimia: Signs of Bulimia

Here are the signs of bulimia:

Hiding One’s Body 

While excessive weight loss or a lack of body image is not always related to bulimia nervosa, patients with both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa often have a distorted body image or dissatisfaction with their bodies. 

This unhappiness might be expressed by the individual by concealing their body. 

Hiding the Purging 

The frequent purging (typically by self-induced vomiting) following meals and binge-eating episodes is the most common symptom of bulimia nervosa. 

Because this is well-known, measures are frequently attempted to conceal signs of binge eating episodes and subsequent purging. For instance, someone with bulimia might have food caches hidden in the trash or wrappers buried in the garbage.

Self-Induced Vomiting 

Evidence of vomiting, a hallmark symptom of bulimia nervosa that requires treatment, is one of the most important things to look out for. 

This can take the shape of frequent bathroom stops after meals, regular medication use (e.g. laxatives), or frequent dieting. Another cause for concern is frequently detected vomit odor. 

Food Avoidance and Rituals

Bulimia nervosa patients typically have a tumultuous relationship with eating, especially in a communal context. 

They will frequently adopt food rituals, such as eating in a specific order or ensuring that various meals do not touch the plate. They may also find eating with others distressing. Hence, they prefer eating alone, often during binge episodes. 

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Anorexia vs Bulimia: Treatments for Anorexia and Bulimia 

Here are the treatments for anorexia and bulimia:


This style of counseling often includes  family-based therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy. 

The goal of this treatment is to assist people in overcoming damaging ideas and actions that are contributing to anorexia or bulimia. Group talk therapy may be beneficial as well.

Dietitian Support and Nutrition Education 

These can assist someone in making nutritious meal planning and learning healthy eating habits. They might also learn to change their eating habits.


Hospitalization may be required, particularly for those with severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and organ damage.


If you observe signs of an eating disorder in someone you care about, speak up. You'll need to extend the olive branch since persons with eating disorders are sometimes afraid or unable to seek help. The right support system and a sobriety app like I Am Sober can also help.

I Am Sober is a free app that helps you get some control back in your life.

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