How Is Binge Eating Different From Bulimia Nervosa?
Bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder (BED) are two different kinds of eating disorders or mental health disorders associated with disturbed eating habits that often stem from negative thoughts and emotions. If you or someone you care about has either of these conditions, it can be difficult to talk about, especially if you don’t understand their symptoms. Our center for eating disorder management offers various resources to help people familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and offers answers to common questions like, “how is binge eating disorder different from bulimia nervosa?” Today, we’re going to look at some of the similarities and differences between these two conditions.
Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which the person frequently consumes larger amounts of food than normal and feels unable to stop eating. Although many of us have had moments where we’ve eaten too much and regretted it almost immediately, people with BED struggle with excessive overeating that feels out of their control and becomes an everyday occurrence.
As a result, individuals with this disorder may struggle with being overweight or obese, as well as the various health problems associated with these conditions. Following these episodes of binge eating, they may feel embarrassed and vow to stop. However, once the compulsion to overeat arises, it’s difficult to resist.
Some other typical signs of BED include:
- Eating unusually large amounts of food in two hours or less
- Feeling that you can’t control your eating behavior
- Eating quickly during binge episodes
- Eating even when you're full or not hungry
- Eating until you're uncomfortably or painfully full
- Frequently eating alone or in hiding from others
- Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty, or upset after binge eating
- Frequently dieting, oftentimes without weight loss results
Signs of Bulimia Nervosa
Otherwise referred to as bulimia, bulimia nervosa is also a serious eating disorder that’s associated with episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors like purging or vomiting to try and get rid of the extra calories. People with bulimia may experience an episode of uncontrollable eating and then do things like purge (vomit), over-exercise, or take substances like laxatives and stool softeners to lose the extra calories.
People with bulimia nervosa are usually obsessive about their weight and body shape. They often judge themselves harshly for their perceived flaws.
Other bulimia nervosa signs include:
- Frequent preoccupation with body shape and weight
- Extreme fear of gaining weight
- Repeated episodes of eating abnormally large amounts of food in two hours or one sitting
- Feeling like you can’t stop eating during a binge episode
- Forcing yourself to vomit or exercising too much to prevent weight gain after binge eating
- Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after eating when they aren’t medically necessary
- Fasting, restricting food intake, or avoiding certain foods between binges to avoid weight gain
- Using dietary supplements or herbal products to promote weight loss
The severity of this condition is determined by the number of times a week you purge, which is usually at least once a week or at least three times a month.
Binge Eating Disorder vs. Bulimia Nervosa: How Are They Different?
While comparing bulimia nervosa vs. binge eating disorder, you’ll find that the two disorders are not the same. While they’re associated with disturbed eating habits like other eating disorders, there are certain behaviors that people with one don’t engage in.
The difference between binge eating and bulimia nervosa is that people with bulimia nervosa engage in compensatory behaviors like purging, over-exercising, or taking laxatives after a binge eating episode, while people with BED do not. Additionally, people with binge eating disorders often lack the psychological trigger alerting them that they’re full, which is why they often have trouble controlling their eating habits.
Risks of Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa
However, despite the differences between bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, both conditions present various health risks and can become life-threatening without treatment.
Common health risks for binge eating disorder include:
- Weight gain
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Increased risk of stroke or heart attack
- Lowered self-esteem
- Type II diabetes
- Joint and muscle pains
The health risks of bulimia nervosa are slightly different and include problems like:
- Compromised immunity
- Acid reflux
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay and loss
- Thinning hair
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased risk of heart failure
- Esophageal inflammation (from purging)
- Muscle weakness
- Organ damage
Getting Help at Our Center for Eating Disorders
An untreated eating disorder will only worsen over time, eventually leading to life-threatening complications. These disorders are among the deadliest in the world, coming second only to opioid overdose.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, we can help. Banyan Treatment Centers offers eating disorder support for all kinds of conditions, including BED and bulimia nervosa.
With the help of our trained specialists, we address the physical, psychological, and social contributing factors to our patients’ disorders to help them develop a healthy lifestyle. To learn how our eating disorder treatment in Philadelphia can help you or a loved one, call Banyan today at 888-280-4763.
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