Eating disorders are a problem that keeps any parent or educator alert. We must especially highlight anorexia and bulimia as two of the most persistent conditions that cause the greatest discomfort to people who suffer from them.
Knowing the difference between anorexia and bulimia is not an easy task since both disorders are often confused. However, although they may have the same origin, the truth is that both the symptoms and the treatment will be different depending on each one.
If you suspect that a person in your environment has unhealthy behaviors or attitudes towards food, you should be vigilant if they could be developing an eating disorder. They are not always easy to recognize, but being aware of the difference between anorexia and bulimia will help clear things up.
Is it anorexia, or is it bulimia?
Both anorexia and bulimia fall into the category of eating disorders. These disorders are essentially characterized by excessive preoccupation with the physical, distorted perception of one’s appearance, and irrational fear of gaining weight.
The difference between anorexia and bulimia is especially noticeable in the behaviors and efforts made to lose weight. Therefore, watch out for strange behaviors or sudden changes in physical appearance. Next, we will delve into both disorders based on the diagnostic criteria and the health implications.
What is anorexia?
As detailed in the academic literature on the subject, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is essentially characterized by strictly restricting the quantity and quality of food eaten. In other words, people diagnosed with anorexia go to great lengths to eat as little food as possible.
Consequently, people with anorexia always have an underweight body mass index, identifying and diagnosing the disorder.
The consequences it has on physical health are different for each condition. In the case of anorexia, they are the following:
- Absence of menstrual period.
- Bradycardia – slow heart rate.
- Dry skin.
- Low tension and body temperature.
- Significant loss of muscle mass and bone mass.
Finally, an important difference from bulimia is the conception of thinness. So every kilogram lost is a potent reinforcement.
What is bulimia?
For its part, the Argentine Society of Pediatrics explains that bulimia refers in general terms to the lack of control over the impulse to eat. People who suffer from bulimia binge to relieve feelings of anxiety. However, afterward, they feel guilty and resort to purgative behaviors — vomiting, laxatives, diuretics — to lose weight.
In terms of physical appearance, the weight of people with bulimia is very oscillating. Although the ideal is the same as in anorexia, it undergoes constant changes to look as thin as possible.
On the other hand, the long-term consequences of the disorder on physical health are the following:
- Cardiac arrhythmias.
- Significant reduction in potassium levels.
- Loss of tooth enamel caused by the acidity of the vomit.
- Calluses on the hands.
This means that thinness is a means to an end, to be happy, and it is not a goal in itself, as it is in anorexia.
Detecting anorexia and bulimia is in our hands.
It doesn’t take a health expert to see that certain behaviors or attitudes can indicate the presence of an eating disorder. You have to be attentive to how the person eats and listen to their concerns about physical appearance.
A fundamental aspect of dealing with anorexia or bulimia is treating them with empathy and understanding. It’s not easy to go through a situation like this, and what these people need most are support figures they can trust. Trying to blame them is not only unfair in and of itself. It increases discomfort, worries, and negative behaviors.