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Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa


People do not always understand the severity of eating disorders and the difficulty of their treatment. Perhaps, that happens because, for the general public, food intake seems a natural and easily controlled action. Despite this misconception, Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN) are serious psychiatric disorders. They usually occur in adolescents and are closely connected with the affected person’s psychological well-being and self-esteem. Eating disorders require professional help in diagnosing and treating the patients.

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Compare and Contrast

AN and BN have some similar characteristics but are usually diagnosed separately. Anorexia is characterized by food restriction, distorted self-perception of body image and standards, and obsessive desire to weigh less. Bulimia includes binge-eating followed by the “punishment”: purging, abuse of laxatives, or overexercising (MedCircle, 2019). People with AN are usually severely underweight but still see themselves as too heavy. They may continuously count calories in their meals, fast for several days at a time, and receive pleasure from others’ concerns about their weight loss. Someone with BN experiences cycles of eating much unnecessary food followed by compensating for it through self-induced vomiting, uncontrolled laxatives intake, or burning thousands of calories during exercise. Both mentioned eating disorders are connected to the unbalanced mental state of the patients and self-esteem problems. They require work with psychiatrists and close people support for the successful recovery process.

More Likely to Suffer

Anorexia and Bulimia are not exclusive to any particular gender, age, race, or sexual orientation. However, some demographic groups are at higher risk of experiencing one of these disorders. They include teenagers, especially young females, and professional athletes, whose sport activities are connected with weight characteristics (MedCircle, 2019). Adolescents experience identity development and hormonal changes, so they are prone to experimenting with their appearance and body weight. Peer pressure and desire to be popular also contribute to the higher risk of eating disorders for this group.

Athletes and dancers who have to maintain a particular bodyweight, for example, ballerinas and boxers, may lose control of their food intake manipulations. People who experiment with meal restrictions for religious or general fitness purposes are also at higher risk of developing eating disorders than those who do not. That happens because the focus on their thoughts is often concentrated on food and body weight.

Contributing to Anorexia Nervosa

Factors that contribute to AN are biological and social and may work in combination with each other. Genetics plays a significant role in the potential development of Anorexia. For example, having relatives with eating disorders increases the one’s possibility of facing a similar problem (Engel, n.d.). Naturally slender or, on the contrary, prone to excess weight, people may develop AN or BN because their unaltered body state is different from the average one. Peer pressure and popular advertisement images of models with unnaturally ideal bodies promote an unhealthy idea that thinner waistlines and legs are always better. Most people want to be approved by society, so they strive to prove to everyone that they are slender enough to be accepted into a targeted peer group.

Consequences of Eating Disorders

AN and BN have different effects on people depending on the duration and severity of the disorders. The possible consequences include significant weight fluctuations, hormonal disbalance, muscle volume decrease, infertility, and body hair growth. Due to repeated vomiting, people suffering from BN often experience digestion problems, unpleasant breath, and teeth damage due to the presence of stomach acid in their mouths. Both food restriction and purging may affect the brain structure, leading to temporary or permanent changes in the orbitofrontal cortex (Frank et al., 2019). In severe cases, eating disorders may lead to physical exhaustion, coma, or death. The psychological consequences of AN and BN may be self-esteem problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental conditions. Most of them can be controlled through professional methods if the patient is searching for medical help. However, complete recovery from Anorexia and Bulimia without any physical and mental consequences is unlikely.

How Can One Diagnose an Eating Disorder?

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Friends and relatives may look for warning signs of eating disorders in a person, such a significant weight fluctuation, overexercising, constant fatigue, and forced vomiting. However, medical specialists’ skills are necessary for an accurate diagnosis. First, a doctor would perform a set of medical procedures, including physical exams, laboratory tests, and a survey. Medical specialists have a list of AN and BN parameters, which they check in case of suspicion of such a disorder. Then, if the initial results confirm the possibility of an eating problem, the patient talks to a mental health doctor for a final diagnosis and recommendation (Higuera, 2016). Each case is individual and cannot be approached as a general illness with standard treatment methods.

Treatment and Support

The first step to potential recovery is convincing the patient that they have a problem and need professional help. Sometimes, family and friends may assist in achieving this goal. Afterward, doctors and psychiatrists will perform necessary observations and, if the diagnosis is confirmed, recommend the treatment strategy. It often includes a nutritious diet, light physical exercises, regular meetings with a mental health specialist, and much support from family and friends. Seeing and feeling that their are loved, accepted, and desired can become the patient’s primary motivation to recover.


Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are both dangerous eating disorders that can have severe consequences for those who suffer from them. They are closely connected to one’s psychological well-being, body perception, and feeling accepted by society. Once developed, these eating disorders require professional help to be accurately diagnosed and treated. Family support and continuous work on the patient’s self-acceptance may contribute significantly to their recovery.


Engel, B. (n.d.) Eating disorders. Causes of eating disorders – biological factors. Gulf Bend Center. Web.

Frank, G., Shott, M. E., & DeGuzman, M. C. (2019). The neurobiology of eating disorders. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 28(4), 629–640. Web.

Higuera, V. (2016). Diagnosing an eating disorder. Healthline. Web.

MedCircle. (2019). The 3 types of eating disorders and how to spot them. Web.

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