Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa are both eating disorders that, in many ways, have similarities. There are some common, noticeable symptoms of AN or BN which are difficult to differentiate from each other. However, in both conditions, the cause of the disorder is believed to stem from imbalances in the brain and the relationship between the brain and the nervous system are thought to be connected to eating disorders. From an early age, children with these conditions are made to feel ugly, or are made to feel inadequate in some way. The underlying causes are unknown, but it is known that they do share a common genetic predisposition.
The distinguishing features between anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the excessive exercise of one or both of the body systems and the simultaneous depression or lack of self-esteem with an accompanying motivation to diet or purge the body of its unwanted weight. In anorexia nervosa, excessive exercise is combined with the idea that weight gain is necessary to maintain a healthy body. When the diet is not followed, or the amount consumed is insufficient for maintenance, the person develops an intense fear of gaining weight and a commitment to an extreme regime of exercise.
Another distinctive feature of anorexia nervosa is the excessive use of laxatives to relieve hunger. Because excessive calorie intake does not contribute to normal weight maintenance, the sufferer becomes obsessed with weight loss and developing a pattern of eating where they are always hungry. For anorexia nervosa, this is often coupled with the usage of anorexia medications like diets that are low in carbohydrate content. This type of treatment for anorexia nervosa usually lasts for a few months. Weight loss is achieved by restricting calories so much that the body can not cope.
Bulimia often starts as a mild preoccupation with body shape and weight. Anorexia can then progress until it reaches the stage of purging by vomiting and/or taking laxatives. A person with bulimia will usually exercise very little and diet very little. In the beginning, bulimia is just a desire for control over weight, but over time, the preoccupation with body shape may develop into a serious obsession. When this happens, it has become very clear that the patient is suffering from anorexia nervosa.
A mental disorder like anorexia nervosa is classified as an eating disorder because of the distorted way the patient approaches the weight gain and the consumption of food. This distorted view of weight gain leads to poor nutrition skills, irregular meal times and extreme dieting. When anorexia progresses beyond childhood stages it develops into an eating disorder. While many psychologists believe that there is a link between childhood psychological problems and anorexia nervosa, most medical researchers disagree. It is believed that it is a much more complex disorder than that.
Psychological disorders can have severe consequences in the mental and emotional well-being of an individual. Because of this, people suffering from these conditions are much more likely to seek treatment when they begin to exhibit symptoms. Recovery from one of these conditions is very complicated and takes months or years. People with these conditions are sometimes treated with antidepressants and sometimes with a combination of both anti-depressants and psychotherapy. Suicidal thoughts are common with individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa.
It is also believed that there is a genetic component to these behaviors. Studies have shown that female binge sufferers and male bulimia nervosa sufferers tend to have higher family histories of obesity and overweight. It has also been shown that these individuals tend to adopt more compensatory behaviors for excess weight gain such as purging, fasting, self-medication, exercising excessively, lying about food intake, and using laxatives. This may all contribute to their tendency to engage in self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, binge eating, and weight gain. These individuals may also be genetically susceptible to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and hypertension.
Anorexia nervosa should not be taken lightly. If a person is suffering from this condition, it is very important that he or she receive professional treatment as soon as possible. A treatment program should include counseling, exercise, and medication. Counseling may be particularly helpful as it focuses on the mental and emotional aspects of a patient. One of the most important aspects of treatment is to ensure that the anorexic’s diet is carefully monitored by a qualified nutritionist. By doing so, recovery rates from this disorder can increase significantly.