Anorexia and Bulimia: Description, Symptoms, and Risks


Eating disorders have a high prevalence in the world and the US specifically, with over 10% of individuals affected. Anorexia and bulimia are some of the most lethal disorders. They cause physical harm to the patient’s neurological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and endocrinal systems. A complex approach involving different disciplines is required for its treatment, with long-lasting effects often left on the patient’s systems.


Eating disorders are becoming increasingly common around the world. It is estimated that between 10-20% of individuals worldwide are suffering from some kind of related disease (Weissman et al., 2020). The percentages vary from one region to another – if obesity and overeating are prevalent in the West, countries in Africa often suffer from undernourishment (Weissman et al., 2020). Anorexia and bulimia are diseases associated with a distorted bodily image (Weissman et al., 2020). The purpose of this paper is to provide a general description of the diseases and highlight their risks and relationships with nutritional aspects.

General Description

Anorexia and bulimia are relatively similar diseases that frequently lead to comparable negative outcomes, such as excessive weight loss and the inability to facilitate proper food intake. The difference is in the psychological and physiological processes associated with them. Individuals with anorexia severely reduce their food intake to prevent getting the perceived extra calories, whereas individuals with bulimia eat excessively and then induce vomiting to prevent weight gain (Stice et al., 2021). The disease is prevalent in women, with around 1.0% of women having experienced anorexia and 1.5% – of bulimia, respectively (Stice et al., 2021). These diseases are dangerous and deadly, carrying a six-fold increased risk of death compared to a major depressive disorder. Anorexia is considered the most lethal psychiatric disease in existence.

Symptoms, Risks, and Relationships with Nutritional Aspects

The main symptoms of anorexia and bulimia are largely similar, which is why they are often confused. These symptoms include severe loss of weight, insomnia, skipping meals, low self-esteem, weakness and dizziness, and general social avoidance, among others. In the case of bulimia, the weight can jump up and down depending on if the person is in a binge-eating or fasting cycle (Stice et al., 2021). Other physical symptoms include the degradation of skin, teeth, and hair, low energy and avoidance of physical activity, as well as swollen lymph nodes.

Anorexia and bulimia bring about a plethora of health risks, affecting the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and endocrine systems. From a cardiovascular consideration, a lack of nutrition weakens the muscles and the vessels, making the heartbeat much slower, thus reducing the transportation of oxygen and other nutrients into the system (Weigel et al., 2019). In addition, frequent vomiting depletes the body of electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, and chloride. The absence of these elements can lead to heartbeat irregularities and possible death.

Gastrointestinal consequences are much more widespread due to the inherent nature of both diseases. Some of the associated diseases instigated by anorexia and bulimia include gastroparesis and constipation (Weigel et al., 2019). In addition, the constant vomiting or the use of laxatives could induce artificial wearing down of the esophagus and the intestines (Weigel et al., 2019). Finally, malnutrition and stomach perforation are the diseases accompanying both of these eating disorders, as the expulsion of liquids and nutrients results in the weakening of the stomach and adjacent systems.

Neurological consequences are associated with the fact that the brain consumes up to 1/5 of all calories ingested, meaning that if an individual starves, their brain is among the first to suffer (Weigel et al., 2019). Additional issues are related to nutrition – nerve endings and insulation require electrolytes to form and function, which is impossible if the disease makes a person expel those. Poor satiation results in broken sleeping patterns, making it harder to concentrate and even think (Weigel et al., 2019). Muscle cramps, fainting, and dizziness are also induced by anorexia and bulimia for these collective reasons.

Finally, the endocrinal disorders brought about by these diseases affect sex hormones, testosterone, and thyroid elements. Expelling food or eating fewer increases the body’s resistance to insulin, decreases sex drive and results in the overall weakening of willpower (Weigel et al., 2019). Hypothermia, diabetes, reduced metabolic rates, and other issues may follow based on the endocrinal changes in the body.

Treating anorexia and bulimia can be done in several ways, including medicinal, dietary, and psychological interventions. The main goals include addressing the underlying causes of the conditions, making individuals less reluctant to eat and digest food, and modifying any dangerous behaviors (Stice et al., 2021). Dietary interventions are necessary for both scenarios, as individuals are often starved by the point when they receive proper treatment (Stice et al., 2021). Changes in quality and quantity are often prescribed by the degree to which anorexia or bulimia was allowed to progress, vitamin and hormonal deficiencies found, restorative means, etc.


Anorexia and bulimia are some of the most dangerous psychological diseases, which may result in a person severely damaging their physical health due to malnutrition. Some of the symptoms associated with the disease include significant weight loss, physical degradation, loss of sleep, drive, and mental capabilities, as well as depression and other corresponding social issues. These disorders cause much damage to cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and endocrinal levels. To cure individual bulimia, a holistic approach integrating medical, dietary, and psychological assistance is required.


Stice, E., Desjardins, C. D., Rohde, P., & Shaw, H. (2021). Sequencing of symptom emergence in anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and purging disorder and relations of prodromal symptoms to future onset of these disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 130(4), 377-387.

Weigel, A., Löwe, B., & Kohlmann, S. (2019). Severity of somatic symptoms in outpatients with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review, 27(2), 195-204.

Weissman, R. S., Bauer, S., & Thomas, J. J. (2020). Access to evidence‐based care for eating disorders during the COVID‐19 crisis. Eating Disorders, 53(5), 639-646.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Anorexia and Bulimia: Description, Symptoms, and Risks'. 24 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Anorexia and Bulimia: Description, Symptoms, and Risks." September 24, 2022.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Anorexia and Bulimia: Description, Symptoms, and Risks." September 24, 2022.


PsychologyWriting. "Anorexia and Bulimia: Description, Symptoms, and Risks." September 24, 2022.