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What is the Difference Between Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder?

Are Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder Related?

Even though they are relatively well-known by people outside the medical community, eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are still mysteries in some ways. One of these ways is the connection between the types of eating disorders, which share certain symptoms but have major differences.

Understanding those differences is one of the essential ways to identify and diagnose a disorder and then secure treatment. Proper education and early intervention improve the accuracy of diagnosis and are also essential for long-term recovery. When searching out bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder treatment for a loved one, detailed information regarding these serious behavioral disorders can make the difference between continuation and recovery.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder, which is the most common type of eating disorder in the United States, is characterized by frequent binge eating episodes. These episodes involved eating a large amount of food in a short period, often with unhealthy foods and in secret. There is usually a feeling of losing control over their actions, such as eating without being hungry. The episodes normally include feelings of shame, disgust, and guilt in relation to binge eating behaviors.

Unlike bulimia nervosa, BED (binge eating disorder) sufferers do not purge following an eating episode.However, there are many health complications that can come with the disorder.If disordered eating continues unabated, people with binge eating disorder have a higher risk of:

  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Intestinal distress
  • Stroke
  • Certain types of cancer

Bulimia Nervosa

Although it's one of the most well-known types of eating disorders, a quick diagnosis and successful recovery often depend on the family and loved ones learning more about the condition. This often speeds the treatment process and provides a blueprint for an effective and complete recovery.

Bulimia nervosa is also characterized by quickly binging on large amounts of food, but unlike BED, these binges are typically followed by some type of purging behavior to remove the calories. These might include one or more of the following:

  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Excessive exercise
  • Laxative and/or diuretics abuse
  • Fasting
  • Enemas

Purging can quickly result in tooth and throat problems resulting from the stomach acids brought up when vomiting, as well as a high risk of dehydration and severe electrolyte imbalance. If left untreated, these health complications can also take a great toll on the heart – heart failure, arrhythmia, and other complications are common in late-stage bulimia nervosa cases. As always, early intervention can help prevent these dangerous complications.

Securing Treatment

If the signs are clear, or even better, if you’ve contacted your physician and gotten a diagnosis of BED or bulimia nervosa, stay positive; this is a chance to begin changing your loved one’s life. Specialized treatment for anorexia, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are available across the country and the sooner you get started, the better.

When choosing the location and type of eating disorder treatment program you want, keep these key factors in mind:

  • Your loved one may be resistant to treatment at first. Be calm, patient, and caring – and listen to what they have to say!
  • People with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder often have a troubled relationship with their body image and weight – and they have a tendency to turn to fad dieting. Be aware of frequent dieting as a risk factor.
  • In most cases, a balance of eating for nourishment and enjoyment is ideal. Binge eating episodes in either disorder are often junk food, and many people in recovery indicate they didn't get enjoyment from eating, either.

BED and bulimia nervosa are both potentially harmful and even deadly mental health disorders, which can derail a person's life if not treated. The good news is, treatment is available and can stem the tide if begun early on. Reach out today and get started on a healthier life.


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