Eating Disorder: Anorexia vs. Bulimia vs. Binge-Eating

The Friend I Couldn’t Save

Depressed little girl with eating disorder

Eating disorders are among the top 4 leading causes of years of life lost through death or disability. Image by David Castillo

Asmariya had the sweetest smile which I can only compare to an upside down rainbow. Looking back when we way both growing up in Dubai I am tempted to say she was one of my closest friends. When we were about twelve something happened to her and up to this day I am not sure I can describe it.

Asmariya had lost so much weight and she had lost her smile; her beautiful upside down rainbow was now a black cloud of tears. She hardly talked and she kept calling herself ugly. Her parents went from being pissed off at her to crying. I had never seen a proud Arab man cry before.

Some said she was possessed or had encountered the “evil eye”. Whatever the case she was misunderstood. When I was 15 I had to return to Mombasa (on the coast of Kenya). I never saw Asmariya again and I never will because she is no longer with us.

Cultural Issues & Eating Disorders

In most non-Western cultures, the term eating disorder is alien. People up to this day say that it is a choice and not a medical issue. The cases are so rare  in the Middle East and Africa. Only recently  have we started seeing an increase of such cases thanks to the influence of  television and cinema.

However this increase in cases in the Middle East and Africa has not been matched by an increase in professionals who can help educate family members and help victims.

Why am I Writing this Article?

To be honest I don’t know. Perhaps it is the guilt that any person would feel when knowing that they couldn’t save a friend that is making me do this?

I look at this blog and what we do here. There is so much positive feedback and many of you have thanked me for giving you hope, motivation, and a drive to keep on struggling to be better. If I had the ability back then and the sense to even recognize what Asmariya was going through it would have been easier for her.

I guess in a way this blog post is dedicated to her. I don’t know which eating disorder she had but I have noted down some points for my readers. May be someone somewhere who has no idea what is happening to their child or friend will come across this blog and understand.

What is an Eating Disorder?

  • An eating disorder is a severe mental illness. It is however treatable; the sooner it is recognized the better the chance for recovery.
  • A persistent pattern of unhealthy eating is the most prominent clue that someone is suffering from an eating disorder. This is not a choice or a passing fad. So if you are reading this please take it seriously; please!
  • The 3 categories of eating disorders that have been identified are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). Binge- eating falls under EDNOS; there are many other eating disorders that fall under EDNOS and diagnosing them is not always a straightforward matter.

What is Anorexia?

  • A person who fails to maintain a normal body weight for their age and height might be suffering from anorexia nervosa. Anything less than 85% of expected weight falls under this category.
  • Anorexia nervosa is so severe that some women stop having their periods.
  • Despite being way below expected weight for their age and height, individuals with anorexia continue thinking they are overweight. This is accompanied by low self-esteem and a low sense of self.
  • Individuals who have anorexia often refuse to recognize the seriousness of the issue and it is up to family and friends to take action.

What is Bulimia?

  • People who suffer from bulimia nervosa experience out of control binge-eating. This is when an individual eats unusually large amounts of food for about two hours without being able to control themselves.
  • Binge-eating episodes are caused by an unstoppable urge to eat and an individual may find it almost impossible to resist eating. The loss of control and unstoppable urge is what makes binge-eating different from regular overeating.
  • Binge-eating is followed by an episode of trying to “undo” its consequences. This is done by self-induced vomiting, laxative misuse, enemas, diuretics, severe caloric restriction or excessive exercising.
  • Bulimia nervosa patients are obsessed with their shape and weight. They believe that their self-worth is dependent on their weight and shape.
  • We know two types of bulimia nervosa: The purging type which includes those individuals who self-induce vomiting or use laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Then you have the non-purging type which refers to those who compensate through excessive exercising or dietary fasting.

What is Binge-Eating Disorder?

  • People who suffer from binge-eating disorder -also known as BED- have their binge-eating episodes without regularly engaging in unhealthy methods to “undo” the binge-eating.
  • Binge-eating disorder is mostly found in individuals who are obese or overweight. Other terminologies that have been used to describe this disorder are compulsive overeating, emotional eating, and food addiction.

Facts about Eating Disorders

  • Women are not the only ones who suffer from eating disorders; studies show that men are vulnerable too.
  • Male athletes ,especially those in sports such as wrestling, bodybuilding, running, cycling, and football are at risk.
  • About one in every twenty women suffers from one kind of eating disorder or another.
  • It is true that the false portrayal of the skinny glamorous woman on TV as the “ultimate emancipated woman” plays a role in the increase in eating disorders.
  • Genetic vulnerability, personality, psychological, and environmental factors also contribute to the causes of eating disorders.
  • Eating disorders are among the top 4 leading causes of years of life lost through death or disability for women aged 15-24.

What You Should Do

  • You should visit the Academy for Eating Disorders which is the source of all the facts I have mentioned above. There is a wealth of knowledge on their site.
  • If you are suffering in silence, know that you are not alone and that people who love you want to help. Break the silence now!
  • If you feel this post was of any use in the slightest way, please reblog, share on social media, or tell a friend with whom you are having coffee about it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

22 thoughts on “Eating Disorder: Anorexia vs. Bulimia vs. Binge-Eating

  1. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are eating disorders that are among the most commonly seen in the American population. Anorexia is a condition where someone attempts to lose weight to the point of dangerous levels of starvation. Bulimia is characterized by periods of binge-eating followed by purges through induced vomiting and/or defecation.

    The two conditions possess significant differences from each other, but also a number of overlapping traits. Complicating matters further is that it is possible for someone to experience both disorders simultaneously.

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  5. This is such an important post. Living in a world so demanding in every aspect, like being successful, beautiful, perfect, have a perfect life, always feeling judged, may lead to many disappointments and struggles. Thank you for educating people

  6. I really appreciate this post, thank you so much for talking about the topic. I myself suffer from EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). The name no longer exists in the new DSM, however many psych professionals still refer to the disorder as that name. It’s apparently co-morbid (congruent) with c-PTSD: disordered eating and excessive exercise for a way to cope with trauma. I’m always hesitant to make posts talking about my own struggles due to those who are still suffering and choose not to get help (known to the world as the ‘pro-ana/mia’ community – which in a sense makes me angry with the public creating that label. They’re not ‘pro’ anything. They’re just finding others when they feel alone, who have the same problem and unintentionally enable each other, not realizing they become codependent) may use my images or warp what I say to help, pardon the pun, feed their illness.

    Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness as they are they only disorder in which the person dies of the illness itself. I cannot stress this enough. If you know someone who is suffering, don’t stay quiet. Eating disorders can look healthy, as well. Overexercise and not enough calorie intake to make up for the loss is a kind of disordered eating, and is missed because it appears to be ‘a healthy lifestyle’. Men can have this too – obsessed with muscle build or to look ‘just perfect’.

    So, again, thank you for bringing this to light in your own way and in a very clear and effective message. Maybe I can find a way to word my story without having to worry about what I mentioned above – this is the Internet: you run lots of risks with whatever you say. As you say: “If you feel this post was of any use in the slightest way, please reblog, share on social media, or tell a friend with whom you are having coffee about it.” Silence is the biggest killer.

    • What a fantastic reply Erika, everything you mentioned was refreshing to this post. In fact it could have been part of the post itself. I am so glad you found this post and took time to comment. You have the power in your words to help others; I think you should just say whatever you feel is correct. Don’t worry about internet trollers getting mad at you for what you say on your blog. Every good blog has it’s own voice and it’s own style that makes it unique. Don’t suppress yours because you have the potential to help many people out there who suffer from eating disorders.

  7. This hits so close to home for me. As I love someone struggling with an eating disorder. Thank you for your bravery in writing out this very informative, and helpful blog post. I will pass it along. 💓

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