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Eating Disorders: Bulimia Nervosa vs. Anorexia Nervosa

Eating Disorders - Differences and similarities between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa: 

Similarities between the eating disorders:

eating disorders 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. And, both of these eating disorders are marked by disturbed attitudes towards eating. One study found, for example, that women with bulimia nervosa generally perceived their body size to be larger then did control subjects of similar size, and believed that their body size became larger still after they ate a small snack.


Differences between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa:

The two eating disorders, 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.

Another key difference between these two eating disorders is the nature of the medical complications that accompany each. Only half of women with bulimia nervosa are amenorrhic or have very irregular menstrual periods, compared to almost all of those with anorexia nervosa. On the other hand, repeated vomiting bathes the teeth and gums in hydrochloric acid, leading some women with bulimia nervosa to experience serious dental problems, such as a breakdown of enamel and even the loss of teeth. Moreover, frequent vomiting or chronic diarrhea (from the use of laxatives) can cause dangerous potassium deficiencies, which may lead to weakness, intestinal disorders, kidney disease, or heart damage.

Information from Ronald J. Comer's  Abnormal Psychology

Revised for the internet by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D Candidate 

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