How is Bulimia Similar to Binge Eating Disorder?


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When it comes to eating disorders, you’re probably most familiar with anorexia or bulimia. But did you know another eating disorder that is now more prevalent than those two?(1) This eating disorder is called “binge eating disorder” or “BED” for short. 

While BED stands on its own in the DSM-5, it does share a few characteristics with bulimia. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today: how bulimia is similar to binge eating disorder. 

To start, let’s begin with working definitions of each, as stated by the National Eating Disorders Association: 

  • Bulimia is a “serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.”(2)
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a “severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.”(3)

With these definitions, you can already begin to see the obvious connection between bulimia and BED. In both eating disorders, a person will regularly eat large quantities of food—an action also known as binging. 

Let’s take a moment to sort through a few more nuanced similarities. We’ll look at the commonalities of these two eating disorders on internal, behavioral, and observational levels. 

Internal Similarities Between Bulimia and BED

This first category represents the often unseen emotional and physical symptoms of both bulimia and binge eating disorder, including: 

  • A feeling of powerlessness to control eating or stop a binge
  • Worry about eating a snack or a meal with other people present
  • The urge to isolate oneself from friends outside of mealtime
  • Trouble focusing
  • Stomach pain, acid reflux, or abnormal bowel movements

Behavioral Similarities between Bulimia and BED

This second category represents the related actions taken by both a person suffering from bulimia and a person suffering from binge eating disorder, including:

  • Eating quickly, well past the point of need, and sometimes without hunger present 
  • Sneaking food from main eating areas and hiding it in discrete places 
  • Scheduling one’s day around binge-eating sessions
  • Critiquing physical appearance in the mirror on a regular basis 

Observational Similarities between Bulimia and BED

And finally, we’ll look at the signs and symptoms you may notice that could indicate your friend or loved one may be suffering from bulimia or binge eating disorder, including: 

  • Food that goes missing in large quantities or evidence of a binge in the trash can 
  • Witnessing binge-eating behavior at least once a week for three months 
  • Clear discomfort on the part of your friend or loved one during mealtime or if you enter a room where they are already eating 
  • A lack of structured meal and snack times—this might look like constant eating or no signs of eating for most hours of the day 
  • Changes in weight that are either up or down, or a combination of both 

With these similarities in mind, consider whether you or a loved one might be suffering from an eating disorder. We would love to walk with you on a journey toward healing and wholeness here at Selah House. Call us at 765.819.2524 or fill out our contact form.



  1. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). “What Are Eating Disorders?”
  2. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). “Bulimia Nervosa.” 
  3. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). “Binge-Eating Disorder.”

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