Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder are among the most well understood and researched eating disorders. Though the former two are probably more spoken about, the third one, also known as compulsive eating disorder is more common.
An estimated 3.5 % women and 2% of men in the United States probably have a binge eating disorder which is an underlying condition for about one third of those who seek weight loss treatment.
There are similarities between bulimia and a binge eating disorder-
Both involve a binging component, where the sufferer tends to eat very large amounts of food, often high calorie, high sugar and fat foods, to the point of feeling overfull or uncomfortable.
In both these eating disorders, a person may eat double, triple or more at a time than others may eat in an entire day. The food is consumed in an uncontrollable manner and often much faster than one would normally eat.
The food is often eaten secretly and alone, and pains are taken to avoid discovery.
In both bulimia as well as binge eating, there is an emotional element the eating and the food may be used as a coping mechanism in times of stress, depression, feelings of isolation or loneliness, boredom, failure and so on. The person may be eating to feed an emotional rather than physical hunger. Low self esteem and a propensity for depression and other addictive behavior may also be observed in individuals suffering from these two eating disorders.
However there are also significant differences between binge eating disorder and bulimia-
The most significant difference between bulimia and a compulsive eating disorder is the fact that in bulimia compensatory behaviors follow the episode of binging.
While bulimics will typically follow the binging by purging, by either taking emetics or using other methods to induce vomiting or purging by using laxatives and diuretics, binge eaters do not display this compensatory behavior.
Bulimics may also display other compensatory behaviors such as fasting, excessive exercising and so on, which those with binge eating disorder will not usually display.
Compulsive or binge eaters are very often obese or overweight while bulimics are most often normal weight individuals or only slightly over or underweight. Compulsive overeaters may very often need medical intervention for their eating disorder.
9 out of 10 bulimics are women; while very significant numbers of men can also suffer from a binge eating disorder. An estimated 4 million Americans could have a binge eating disorder.