Bulimia vs. Anorexia Nervosa vs. Binge Eating Disorder

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Difference between Bulimia, Anorexia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are some of the most debilitating psychological conditions known to humanity, and the results can be pretty devastating. Among the most common eating disorders are bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, all of which can have serious detrimental effects on the health. Let's take a look at their common signs and symptoms.

Anorexia Nervosa
Binge Eating Disorder

The Rationale

Bulimia is a psychological condition that is actually related to anorexia nervosa, in which the person binge eats or eats an excessive amount of food in a short time, and subsequently vomits the ingested food forcibly, in order to compensate for eating it and to prevent weight gain. Other bulimics may engage in excessive exercise for the same purpose. 

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological condition in which the patient has an abnormal fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of their body size and shape. People who suffer from this condition generally restrict the amount of food that they eat, through diets, fasting, excessive exercise or a combination of all three. Anorexics hardly ever eat, and they are constantly aware of the little food that they do eat.

Binge eating disorder is a condition related to both anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Patients typically go through food binges as well, although unlike bulimics, they do not purge their food.


Bulimia is most often characterized by alternating cycles of excessive consumption of massive amounts of high-calorie food, followed by purging or vomiting. This condition is actually a lot more common than anorexia nervosa, and it usually affects females in their teens and twenties. Some bulimics use laxatives and other drugs to induce the purging process, and many manage to maintain a normal body weight.

Anorexia nervosa sufferers are almost always malnourished and severely underweight.  Most such patients weigh less than 85% of their ideal body weight.

Binge eating disorder is actually more common than either bulimia or anorexia nervosa, and unsurprisingly, most sufferers tend to be overweight.

Signs And Symptoms

Among the most common symptoms of bulimia are a fear of weight gain and a general dissatisfaction with body size, shape, and weight. Bulimics also tend to go to the bathroom shortly after meals, and may appear to eat normally except during periods of binging.

Anorexics are often thin and very frail. They are also often obsessed with issues related to food, and weight control. Many anorexics also tend to withdraw from social activities in which food is prominent.

Binge eating disorder sufferers go on food binges as many as two times a week for periods lasting up to 6 months or more. They also eat way past the point of good reason, and eat even when they are not hungry.

Similarities and Differences


  • Person binge eats or eats an excessive amount of food in a short time and subsequently vomits the ingested food

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Patient has an abnormal fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of their body size and shape

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Patients eat even when they are not hungry
  • Unlike bulimics, patients do not purge their food

Which eating disorder is the most damaging?
  • Bulimia
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder

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