Binge Eating Disorder or Bulimia?

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Binge eating disorder and bulimia are two of the three eating disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. (1) On the surface, these two disorders may not seem different from each other. But there are significant differences in the warning signs and dangers of each disorder, as well as the demographics of those who suffer from them.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is more than just excessive eating. It’s the repeated consumption of large amounts of food, usually in an attempt to fill an emotional need. People with binge eating disorder often binge when they’re not hungry or eat well past the point of fullness. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 40 percent of individuals who suffer from binge eating disorder are male. (2)

Although many people with binge eating disorder are overweight, there are also many seemingly healthy people who suffer from binge eating disorder. The disorder is particularly hard to spot for outsiders because most of the binge eating occurs when the individual is alone. Since most binge eaters feel shame regarding their condition, they choose to eat by themselves, where they will not be judged by others.


Bulimia is an eating disorder in which excessive eating is followed by measures to counteract the binge. The most well-known method used by bulimics is vomiting, although extreme exercise and the use of laxatives are also commonplace. Bulimia is most frequently found in young women and teenage girls. There is no one common cause of bulimia, but it’s often tied to an individual’s body image.

As is the case with binge eating disorder, it’s possible for an individual suffering from bulimia to appear perfectly healthy on the outside. That’s because the overeating and purging are done in secret. However, while the individual may appear to be at a healthy weight, she almost always believes herself to be overweight. Bulimia is frequently accompanied by anorexia, which involves a drastic restriction of calories. (3)

Binge Eating Disorder vs. Bulimia

Since both binge eating disorder and bulimia are synonymous with secret overeating, the two disorders can seem similar at first. However, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two.

Although it may seem like bulimia is “safer” because measures are taken to prevent weight gain, the reality is that bulimia is still very dangerous. Frequent vomiting can damage the throat permanently and can cause dental complications. Bulimia can also cause calorie deficiency. On the other hand, the health risks of binge eating disorder are diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Gender Doesn’t Matter

The two disorders also affect different people. Although people of all ages and genders suffer from bulimia, the vast majority of these people are young females. With binge eating disorder, there’s a much more even split between males and females. Making things more difficult is the fact that binge eating disorder is much more difficult to spot, since much of the activity related to the disorder happens behind closed doors. With bulimia, activities such as frequent trips to the bathroom and excessive exercise can indicate that something is wrong.

While binge eating disorder and bulimia are quite different, they’re both dangerous eating disorders that can be fatal if untreated. However, recovery is possible with proper care. Facilities like Avalon Malibu specialize in treating eating disorders, encouraging those who struggle to overcome their demons and live a healthy life.


  1. Types & Symptoms of Eating Disorders, National Eating Disorders Association,
  2. Binge Eating Disorder, National Eating Disorders Association,
  3. Bulimia, Medline Plus,

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