A Look at Similarities Between Anorexia and Bulimia

By on February 19, 2020

Eating disorders affect tens of millions of people in the U.S. and of all mental illnesses, anorexia has the highest mortality rate. Although there are five classifications of eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia are two of the most well-known. The desire to be thin and food restriction are just two of the many commonalities shared between anorexia and bulimia.

Shared characteristics

Restricting food intake for weight loss is the main characteristic of both anorexia and bulimia. A person with anorexia restricts the number of calories they eat, resulting in an unhealthy loss of body weight. On the other hand, people with bulimia binge – eating an unhealthy amount in a short period of time, then compensate by purging, so as not to gain weight.

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Patients with anorexia and bulimia both share a fear of becoming fat. They believe their body size or body image is in some way flawed and become fixated on body fat. Their desire to be thin makes them restrict food intake which can lead to serious medical issues including malnutrition, heart failure, and early death.

The need to be in control is another similarity shared by patients with anorexia and bulimia.  For those with anorexia, they see the control of their food intake as a form of strength and power. On the other hand, patients with bulimia have a loss of control during their binge, and then want to rectify the loss of control by purging.

Risk factors

According to the Center for Discovery, anorexia and bulimia commonalities also include several of the risk factors associated with eating disorders. Being female is one of the highest risk factors. Although males experience anorexia and bulimia, statistics show that females are more likely than males to develop an eating disorder.

Research has found a correlation between mood disorders and eating disorders. Additionally, depression and anxiety, along with the need to be in control are experienced by many people with anorexia and bulimia.

Societal pressure coupled with low self-esteem is another risk factor for anorexia and bulimia. Historically, images in the media have portrayed thin as the ideal body frame to possess. Although many companies are now embracing more realistic and diverse standards of beauty, there is still pressure from both mainstream and social media to be perfect. When that message is internalized by individuals with low self-esteem, it can be dangerous and lead to disordered eating in order to achieve a misguided ideal.


The overall treatment approach is similar to anorexia and bulimia. Both are treated with a multi-disciplinary treatment team that includes a mental health therapist who can help the patient identify the issues causing their eating disorder, and guide the patient in developing coping skills to deal with the pressures and emotions that resulted in the development of their disordered eating.

The treatment team also includes doctors who specialize in patients with eating disorders. Their job is to identify any major health issues and develop a treatment plan for symptoms like malnutrition, amenorrhea, and damage to major organs such as the heart or liver.

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The final equation in the treatment triad is a nutritionist. This professional helps the patient get back to a healthy weight and provides guidance on how to regain normal eating patterns. They also develop a personalized meal plan for the patient and helps with developing a healthier relationship with food.


Although the path is long and oftentimes painful, recovery from anorexia and bulimia is possible. The prognosis is good for patients with a support network that includes family, friends, and a multi-disciplinary treatment team working together to promote recovery and reduce the risk of a relapse.

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A Look at Similarities Between Anorexia and Bulimia