Difference Between Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa

Main Difference – Anorexia Nervosa vs Bulimia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are two of the most common clinically recognized eating disorders identified among people, accounting for two-thirds of the individual cases affected. These people are overly attentive about getting fat, and make extreme restrictions on their dietary plans in order to avoid gaining weight. If there is a failure in maintaining their diet in the expected manner due to some reason, they get very irritated, upset and reach a psychologically disturbed state. Although these two terms sound very similar to each other, there are many differences between them. The main difference between Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa is that Anorexia Nervosa involves starvation on purpose whereas  Bulimia Nervosa is characterization binge eating followed by purging.Difference Between Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa - infographic

What is Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a type of eating disorder where affected individuals tend to avoid food due to fear of gaining weight. While there is a significant predominance in the female population, teenagers are known to be the most vulnerable age group.

The main clinical features of this condition include anxious thoughts about becoming fat, seeing themselves as obese even if they have become emaciated, and refusal to maintain a body weight which is ideal for age and height. People suffering from this disorder try to lose weight in various extreme ways such as extensive exercise to burn fat, avoidance of food containing carbohydrates and fats, using laxatives or diuretics, and cutting down food into small pieces, which will reduce the overall food intake. Additionally, anorectic people are considered to be perfectionists and introverts most of the time and have a history of maintaining poor relationships with others. They often suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. More importantly, when people around them question about the weird pattern of meals and behavior, they tend to become extremely rude, irritated and angry. Therefore, they are usually secretive about their lifestyles and prefer to be alone and isolated.

Even though the exact cause for Anorexia Nervosa has not been identified yet, it is believed to be a disorder associated with culture, occupation, family history, relationship, negative life events and stressful situations.

Main Difference - Anorexia Nervosa vs Bulimia Nervosa

A patient before and after treatment for anorexia nervosa

What is Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia refers to an eating disorder which is characterized by bingeing on food (eating a large amount of food in a short period of time) which is followed by purging in order to avoid weight gain. Teenagers and women are the most affected group of people. Bulimia often starts during the early twenties and last until adulthood as a chronic disorder. The main causes are known to be positive family history, social issues and personality traits. A patient is more vulnerable to have the disease if the family members are obese or have eating disorders. Some other factors that favor this condition include career which stresses about body size ( ballerina, models), the desire to imitate media personals who have slim bodies, perfectionism (wanting the life to be perfect and worries about little things) or stressful life events. People with Bulimia are very conscious about their weight and body shape, and they try to maintain strict diet plans to lose weight. But when they get hungry over time after a long period of starving they tend to binge-eat. But the feelings of shame, guilt, distress and worry about gaining weight will eventually make them purge.

They may also try to misuse laxatives, enemas, and diuretics. These affected individuals are not usually thin but, but normal in body size.

 The main consequences of the disease include gum disorders, tooth decay and loss of tooth enamel due to acid in the mouth as a result of frequent vomiting, osteoporosis ( due to purging), kidney problems, heart problems, and even death.

Difference Between Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa

Difference Between Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa


Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia Nervosa mainly refers to starving on purpose, to create a skeletal like body.

Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia Nervosa is defined by binge eating followed by purging, resulting in an average or overweight body due to the residual amount of calory.

Body Shape

Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexic patients are very thin or emaciated most of the time, and their menstrual cycle is often disturbed by the long-term inadequate food intake.

Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimic patients usually have an average weight ideal for their height and age or in some cases, an obese body

Eating Pattern

Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexic patients  prefer to starve or eat less.

Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia patients eat heavy meals followed by purging.


Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia Nervosa may result in conditions like amenorrhea,  osteoporosis, infertility and heart damage.

Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia patients  can result in heart failure and damage to esophagus and teeth due to excessive vomiting and acid reflux.

Image Courtesy:

“Gull – Anorexia Miss A” By William Withey Gull, Bart, M.D., F.R.S.; edited by Theodore Dyke Acland, M.D. – Collection of the Published Writings of Sir William Gull, MD (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

“Bulimiafaqdia” By Office of Women’s Health  (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music