Is there a fine line between anorexia and bulimia. Is it one, the other, or both?
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
Different people experience their eating disorder in different ways. So for me, I was definitely not anorexic, I only had bulimia because I ate pretty normally outside of the binging and purging.
Although anorexia and bulimia might seem like polar opposites, they actually have more in common than you might think. In general, people with both anorexia and bulimia utilise strategies to avoid gaining weight or to reduce their weight. So people with anorexia will restrict their food altogether, whereas people with bulimia will eat lots of food and then get rid of their food in some way. There are also subtypes of anorexia:
Restricting subtype - during the last three months, the individual has not engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging.
Binge eating purging subtype - during the last three months, the individual has engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging.
The way that eating disorders are officially diagnosed is according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This states that a person who engages in binging and purging and has a low body weight would likely be diagnosed with anorexia and the binge eating purging subtype, but a person who engages in binging and purging and does not have a less than expected body weight would receive a diagnosis of bulimia. So there is and there isn't a fine line between the 2 - everyone is different.
There are also other eating disorders such as OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorders), BED (binge eating disorder) and ARFID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder). People usually just have one eating disorder diagnosis at a time, but the diagnosis can often change.
Remember though that diagnoses are just clinical tools that are meant to help researchers and clinicians with some kind of language and a system to be able to discuss, study and treat eating disorders. They're useful for organizing information, but they are limited in their ability to really understand a person's experience. And what you're experiencing is more than just a set of DSM symptoms and you are more than your diagnosis.
I know the diagnosis can be important to be admitted for treatment facilities but the more important thing is that you recognise that you have a problem and you take steps to address it. So try not to focus too much on what your diagnosis is and focus more on how you're feeling and how it's actually impacting your life, and then use that as your motivation to get treatment. You don't need to have a diagnosis to get therapy. You can just get therapy.