While bulimia and binge eating are both eating disorders and can be treated in fairly similar ways, there are important differences between each one. Bulimia is a disorder in which a person will typically obsess about food and eating to the point that he or she will binge and eat a great deal at once, and then follow that binge with a purge. Binge eating, on the other hand, involves obsession over food and binging, but does not involve purging afterward. Both conditions can be very destructive disorders with serious medical consequences if left untreated.
The two eating disorders are fairly similar at a certain level, but the way in which each is fully expressed is quite different. Also known as “binging and purging,” bulimia typically consists of two phases that are connected and ultimately self-reciprocating. A person will often obsess about food and the act of eating, usually connected to feelings of embarrassment and self-denial, until he or she finally loses control and binges on a lot of food at one time. After this binge, the person will typically feel shame over the eating and then purge his or her system of the eaten food, either through making himself or herself throw up or by taking laxatives.
Though bulimia and binge eating both involve excessive eating, binge eating does not include a purge afterward. Binge eating, or binge overeating, also does not need to happen in a single moment and can consist of extensive, extreme grazing throughout a day. Like with bulimia, there are usually similar feelings of shame and embarrassment after eating.
Both conditions can have detrimental and serious physical and emotional consequences. The shame and guilt a person with these disorders usually feels and associates with food can be quite damaging psychologically and lead to depression and other problems. Bulimia can also have additional physical consequences due to the toll a person places on his or her body through purging. Excessive vomiting can, for example, cause damage to a person’s esophagus and teeth due to stomach acids. Binge eating lacks the purge element of bulimia, which means it can often result in obesity and related health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.