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Eating disorders can be classified by either bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. These psychopathologies, although sharing some similar characteristics, contrast in many ways.
While both bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are both highly dangerous disorders, anorexia nervosa is the most life threatening. This psychopathology has the highest morality rate of all mental health disorders. Anorexia results in high levels of malnutrition and extreme weight loss due to food restriction (Agüera et al., 2015). People suffering from anorexia nervosa experience low self-esteem, anxiety, resentment, and/or loneliness. Clinical depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse, or substance abuse are common among anorexia patients (Frozena & Schub, 2015).
Body dissatisfaction is common among young females and adult women alike, however anorexia is not. Ninety percent of anorexia patients are female, and the average age is seventeen. Risk factors of anorexia nervosa include perfectionism, negative self-evaluation, negative perspectives of parent’s body weight, and a history of sexual abuse. Patients with anorexia tend to come from upper or middle class homes, with parents who are overly concerned with fitness and maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle and often have poor interpersonal relationships. This psychopathology does not discriminate by race, and although to have once been believed to only affect Caucasians, studies have shown that anorexia is just as likely to affect those from other ethnicities such as Black or Hispanic (Frozena & Schub, 2015).
There are a few different forms of signs and symptoms in patients with anorexia, comprising of physical, behavioral, and psychological. Physical signs and symptoms consist of low body mass index, constipation, abdominal pain, dehydration, muscle weakness, intolerance to cold, dry skin and hair, infertility, and more. Behavioral signs include an imprudent tracking of weight, unmonitored abuse of laxatives and diet pills, self-induced vomiting, eating at odd intervals and cutting food into tiny portions, and eating alone or slowly. The psychological symptoms of anorexia nervosa are substance abuse, depression, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, and irritability (Frozena & Schub, 2015).
Bulimia nervosa consists of recurrent episodes of binge eating. There are two types of bulimia nervosa: purging and non-purging. Patients with bulimia nervosa will consume abnormally large amounts of food in any two-hour period due to stress, intense hunger, or unhealthy perceptions of body image and food. The fear that all patients with this psychopathology share is the intense fear of gaining weight, therefore they engage in behaviors that will prevent weight gain after they binge eat. Patients who fall under the category of purging will force themselves to vomit, or even abuse laxatives and weight-loss medication. Non-purging patients will lose weight by fasting or exercising excessively (March & Schub, 2015).
One percent of the general population is diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, with the average age being nineteen. This psychopathology affects one to three percent of young adults. For every one male with bulimia, there are ten females affected as well. It can be hard for doctors and psychiatrists to diagnose bulimia because patients usually hide their behaviors and are not very forthcoming (March & Schub, 2015).
Bulimia nervosa can be caused by a multitude of factors, including a family or individual history of obesity, depression, or substance abuse. About sixty percent of patients have a history of anorexia nervosa as well. Other risk factors are similar to those of anorexia, including a history of sexual abuse, a dissatisfaction with weight, and decreased self-esteem. Psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can facilitate bulimia as well. Other symptoms of bulimia include an obsession with weight, hoarding food, dental erosion, and a loss of the gag reflex. Fifty percent of females with bulimia also experience an irregularity with their menstrual cycle. While the patients with bulimia may experience a fluctuation in their weight, their physical appearance generally will not change (March & Schub, 2015).
Depressive symptoms in patients with both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can be caused by rumination, which is an emotion regulation strategy in which patients dwell on the symptoms, causes, and results of their distresses. Rumination is mainly studied in the field of depression, although researchers show that rumination has effected patients with eating disorders as well. Studies have shown that bulimic patients have an enhanced rumination and binge eating allows for an unhealthy escape from the negative perspectives that are caused by rumination (Naumann, Tuschen-Caffier, Voderholzer, Caffier & Svaldi, 2015).
In conclusion, both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are serious eating disorders. They share similar characteristics, however vary greatly in result and severity. People without an eating disorder have a very different relationship with food than those with an eating disorder, such as bulimia and anorexia. Although a high percentage of woman have or will diet at some point in their life time, many women have admitted to feeling relatively free to make their own dieting choices. This is not the case for those with bulimia and anorexia. Those patients with an eating disorder have such an extreme perception of food and body image that they have almost no control over their behaviors. This can cause feelings such as guilt, low self-evaluation, and other negative perceptions. Although eating disorders can be treated, many cases can take years to recover from. Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are both psychopathologies that affect a person’s healthy perception of food, self, and health (Carney, 1996).
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