Eating Disorders Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1066 Words
Date:  2022-11-20


Eating disorders are psychological disorders that are attributed to abnormal eating, dysfunctional relationships with food, and a preoccupation with one's weight and shape (Robert-McComb, Albracht & Gary, 2014). These disorders affect daily functioning and often result in physical complications and psychological distress. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-IV-TR) recognizes two forms of eating disorders namely anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (Smith, Ellison, Crosby, Engel, Mitchell, Crow, Wonderlich, 2017). Thus, the purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast these two disorders and establish the population most at risk of suffering from either disorder. Further, it seeks to identify their diagnosis, consequences, and treatment.

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Comparison of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa

According to Itulua-Abumere (2013), anorexia and bulimia nervosa have both been defined out of the broad range of psychologically relevant problems of weight and eating from which people suffer. The concept of anorexia nervosa has existed since the 19th century. It refers to a drastic reduction in eating, which results in very low body weight. Although patients with anorexia nervosa consume food, they eat with extreme limitations. There are two primary subtypes of anorexia. First, in the restricting type, an individual loses weight by cutting out sweets and fattening snacks, finally restricting nearly all food. The individual shows almost no variability in the diet. Second, in the binge-eating or purging type, a person loses weight by vomiting after meals, abusing laxatives or diuretics, or participating in excessive exercise. Similar to bulimia nervosa, patients with this subtype may engage in binge-eating.

Conversely, bulimia nervosa was defined less than three decades ago (Itulua-Abumere, 2013). Prevalence rates of bulimia nervosa range from one to four percent making it approximately three times more common than anorexia nervosa. It is a complex disorder attributed by recurrent binge-eating, compensatory behaviors to avoid weight gain, and related behavioral and physiological symptoms. The two subtypes of bulimia nervosa are purging-type and non-purging-type. The most common compensatory behaviors include vomiting, the use of laxative and diuretics and excessive exercising. Notably, the main psychological aspect in bulimia nervosa is a loss of control during episodes of binge eating.

Population Most At Risk

Approximately 90 to 95% of anorexia and bulimia nervosa cases occur in females (Robert-McComb et al., 2014). The peak age of onset is between 14 to 18 years for anorexia nervosa and 15 to 21 years for bulimia nervosa. For teens and young adults, the binge-purge pattern is frequently attempted as a means of weight loss, often after hearing accounts of the disorders from friends or the media. Rates of eating disorders are increasing in North America, Europe, and Japan. This population is more likely to suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa because of prior stressful events such as childhood sexual abuse, separation of parents, or experience of personal failure. Other factors that contribute to eating disorders include sociocultural conditions and psychodynamic aspects like ego deficiencies.

Consequences of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders lead to numerous health consequences. In anorexia nervosa's cycle of self-starvation, a person' body is denied the essential nutrients needed to function normally. Consequently, the body slows down its processes in an effort to conserve energy, which results in serious medical consequences such as osteoporosis, muscle loss and weakness, abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, fatigue, and overall weakness (Itulua-Abumere, 2013). Other consequences include severe dehydration that can result in kidney failure, dry hair and skin, and growth of lanugo all over the body in an effort for the body to retain heat.

Similarly, bulimia nervosa can affect the entire digestive system and can result in an electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body. Such imbalances affect the heart and other major organ functions. Irregular heartbeats resulting from electrolyte imbalances can lead to heart failure and death. Other consequences include peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, and potential for gastric rupture during periods of bingeing, and chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation because of laxative abuse (Itulua-Abumere, 2013).

Diagnosis of Eating Disorders

Three diagnostic criteria have been recommended for anorexia nervosa. They include (a) actions that are deliberately planned to lead to pronounced weight loss, (b) developing an unusual behavior that is defined by a morbid fear of becoming fat, and (c) evidence of an endocrine disorder, amenorrhea in females and loss of sexual potency and sexual interest in males (Smith et al., 2017). Conversely, the diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa include recurrent episodes of binge eating, abdominal pain, bloating and heartburn, depression, fatigue, and headaches. Other symptoms include swelling of hands and feet, regular menstrual periods, and recurrent vomiting (Smith et al., 2017).

Treatment of Eating Disorders

Treatment for eating disorders has two primary goals: (a) to correct the abnormal eating patterns and (b) to address broader psychological and situational aspects that have led to and are maintaining the eating problem. In particular, the most common form of treatment for bulimia nervosa is cognitive-behavioral techniques. Typically, such treatment includes education or dietary component, mainly in the early stages, but gradually the focus moves to cognitive aspects (Robert-McComb et al., 2014). Cognitive techniques teach people to identify and challenge the negative thoughts that precede the urge to binge. Other treatments include antidepressant medications and psychotherapy.

For anorexia nervosa patients, the most popular weight-restoration approach has been the combination of the use of supportive nursing care, nutritional counseling, and high calorie diets. Nevertheless, in life-threatening cases, forced treatments such as tube and intravenous feeding or medications like chlorpromazine and insulin may be used (Itulua-Abumere, 2013).


To conclude, a number of health complications may result from the prolonged and severe malnutrition that often accompanies anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Such consequences include extreme weight loss, electrolyte imbalances, cardiac abnormalities, bone loss, and hormonal changes. Unfortunately, these consequences can result in death. Thus, adequate nutritional intake and weight restoration are essential in the treatment of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.


Itulua-Abumere, F. (2013). Anorexia Nervosa and Bulima Nervosa Critical Analysis of Its Treatment: Implications and Interventions. The Open Access Journal of Science and Technology, 1. DOI:10.11131/2013/100007

Robert-McComb, J. J., Albracht, K. D., & Gary, A. (2014). The physiology of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. In The Active Female (pp. 149-176). Springer, New York, NY. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-8884-2_11

Smith, K. E., Ellison, J. M., Crosby, R. D., Engel, S. G., Mitchell, J. E., Crow, S. J., ... Wonderlich, S. A. (2017). The validity of DSM-5 severity specifiers for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50(9), 1109-1113.

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