anorexia eating disorder

The terms anorexia and bulimia are often used synonymously, but they are not the same thing. Both of these eating disorders are characterized by a focus on thinness, but there are key differences. Anorexia is a clinical diagnosis, while bulimia is considered a behavioral disorder. Both of these eating disorders are treatable, but they can have different impacts on an individual and their friends and family. Understanding the similarities and differences between anorexia and bulimia can help you make an informed decision about your own health.

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia, also known as under-eating, is a behavior that occurs when someone associates low levels of food with self-worth and health. Anorexia is often associated with body image issues, such as body dysmorphia, low self-esteem, and an insecurity around one’s body. Anorexia often begins during late adolescence or early adulthood, but it can happen at any age. People with anorexia often feel shame and embarrassment about their eating, and may feel as if they have no control over their eating. They often have distorted perceptions of their body size and shape, which can lead to extreme self-denial, extreme anxiety, and low frustration tolerance. People affected by anorexia also often have low levels of the “happy” hormone, dopamine, which is believed to underlie many forms of mental health issues such as depression.

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia, also called “binge-eating,” is the act of regularly engaging in large-scale, uncontrollable binge eating (as in “binge-ing”) followed by a period of calmer, less frequent eating (often referred to as “repenting”). Bulimia is an Eating Disorder characterized by bingeing and/or regurgitating foods after having eaten them. The disorder often occurs in combination with another disorder called Bulimic behaviors, which is characterized by feeling bad about eating and engaging in self-induced cutting and burning. Binge eating and bulimia are distinct, but often occur together. These harmful eating habits are closely associated with internalizing negative feelings about one’s body. People with bulimia often have a history of low self-esteem and social anxiety, as well as a strong family history of anorexia.

Anorexia vs. Bulimia

While anorexia is a condition that can occur in either men or women, most cases of anorexia are associated with females. However, some research shows that a strong link exists between anorexia and LGBTQ individuals, particularly those who are gender non-conforming. Additionally, there is a recognized gender difference in the way people approach and respond to issues of body image.

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The Symptoms of Anorexia and Bulimia

Like all eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia have a variety of symptoms. Both conditions leave individuals depleted of energy and lacking in self-worth. Both conditions cause extreme dietary restrictions and extreme binging. While the exact symptoms vary from person to person, the following are common traits shared by people with both eating disorders:

  • Small number of normal meals throughout the day
  • Restrictive diet that varies from day to day
  • A strong focus on weight, shape, and fitness
  • An intense fear of gaining weight
  • A strong desire to be thin
  • A strong will to maintain a strict diet

How to Spot a Person with an Eating Disorder

While anorexia and bulimia can look the same to the naked eye, there are a few key ways to tell them apart. Anorexia is a medical condition, while bulimia is a psychological issue. If you have anorexia, you’re likely to put yourself through self-exams, and to control what you eat. You’re also likely to be very careful about what you say and do. While both anorexia and bullimia can cause weight loss, anorexia is more commonly associated with an underweight condition.

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How to Help Someone with an Eating Disorder

If you think you’re dealing with an eating disorder, the first thing you should do is speak to your doctor. The doctor can rule out various conditions, such as an eating disorder without an obvious cause, type II diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. If the doctor tells you that your case is suspicious, you should call see a specialist who can then rule out various conditions and help you make an informed decision about your own health.

Bottom Line

While anorexia and bulimia are closely related, they are two distinct illnesses with different causes and different treatments. While both can be dangerous to your health, anorexia is considered more of a medical condition while bulimia is considered a more behavioral issue. Both can be dangerous in their own ways. If you or a loved one has an eating disorder, you should seek help. Both conditions can be treatable, but they have different impacts on an individual and their friends and family.

Knoxville Recovery Center Can Help 

Fortunately, help is available for those battling addiction and/or mental health issues. Knoxville Recovery Center offers various services to those struggling in any stage of addiction or mental illness. 

Services offered: 

Detox – Our on-site detox clinic accommodates and supports clients as the body sheds all residual traces of addictive substances. Clients are under medical supervision during the detox process to ensure that they remain safe and comfortable. 

Addiction Treatment  During our addiction treatment program, clients will engage in introductory therapies and exercises that work to prepare them for continued, more intensive treatment outside of our facility. The goal of our addiction treatment track is to stabilize clients so that they are treatment-ready. 

Mental Health Treatment – Our mental health treatment program introduces behavioral therapies rooted in self-expression and holistic exercise. Art therapy, music therapy, and yoga are just a few forms of therapy we offer at the center. Our goal is to help the client reclaim their voice and expose them to treatment within a professional facility. 

Aftercare Planning – Aftercare is designed for individuals who have benefitted from our introductory addiction services and are transitioning into a more intensive addiction treatment program. Once a client is stabilized, they will be encouraged to pursue continued addiction treatment. Our experienced case managers will then work with our clients to place them in a 

If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling and needs help, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call Knoxville Recovery Center and speak with an expert today.

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