Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that aﬀect millions of people around the world. These disorders can manifest in a range of diﬀerent ways.
Two of the most commonly known eating disorders are Bulimia Nervosa and binge eating disorder (BED).
And although these two conditions share some similarities, there are some key diﬀerences that set them apart.
In this article, we will break down the ﬁve main diﬀerences between bulimia and binge eating disorder.
What is Bulimia Nervosa?
“Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the eﬀects of binge eating” – NEDA
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
“Binge-eating disorder is a type of eating disorder characterised by recurrent episodes of binge eating during which individuals sense a lack of control and consume larger amounts of food than most people would under similar circumstances.Binge-eating disorder is a type of eating disorder characterised by recurrent episodes of binge eating during which individuals sense a lack of control and consume larger amounts of food than most people would under similar circumstances.” – Break Binge Eating
The Differences Between Bulimia and Binge-Eating Disorder
1. Compensatory behaviors
Compensatory behaviors are those that an individual uses to try and manage their weight following a binge eating episode. In bulimia, these behaviors may include self-induced vomiting, laxative use, or excessive exercise. In binge eating disorder, there are typically no compensatory behaviors following a binge eating episode, as individuals with this disorder do not have the same fear of gaining weight.
2. Body weight and shape
Another key diﬀerence between bulimia and binge eating disorder is the relationship with body weight and shape.
While Bulimia requires the presence of an overvaluation with weight and shape, people with binge eating disorder may have body dissatisfaction and negative thoughts and feelings about their weight and shape, but they don't typically have the same intense fear of weight gain that individuals with bulimia do.
3. Binge triggers
The emotional triggers that lead to binge eating episodes can also diﬀer between bulimia and binge eating disorder.
In bulimia nervosa, the strongest binge trigger we typically see is a dietary lapse, which essentially occurs when one perceives that they’ve broken a self-imposed food “rule”.
For individuals with binge eating disorder, episodes of overeating are typically triggered by negative emotions such as stress, boredom, or anxiety.
Now, this isn’t to say that people with Binge Eating Disorder aren’t triggered by a “dietary lapse”, they just tend be more aﬀected by other triggers compared to those with Bulimia Nervosa.
4. Body Weight & Mass
It's not surprising that there is a diﬀerence in body weight between bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
Those with bulimia nervosa usually have a healthy body mass index (BMI), while those with binge-eating disorder often have an overweight or obese BMI.
For instance, research has found that 1 out of 4 people with binge-eating disorder are considered obese, a much lower number than those with bulimia nervosa. The reason for this diﬀerence is that those with bulimia nervosa compensate for the extra calories they consume during a binge, whereas those with binge-eating disorder do not.
This causes excess fat buildup in binge-eating disorder but not in bulimia nervosa.
In conclusion, while bulimia and binge eating disorder may share some similarities, they are diﬀerent conditions with distinct features.
Both conditions can have signiﬁcant physical and mental health consequences and require professional treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to seek help from a qualiﬁed healthcare provider.