Anorexia and bulimia are both eating disorders and are often mentioned together, yet each is the opposite of the other. In simple terms, bulimia is over eating and anorexia is under-eating to the point of starvation.

In bulimia, a person overeats and then compensates by frantic exercise, or purging through the use of laxatives or by vomiting. It was once believed that bulimia was solely a psychological disorder because overeating was followed by feelings of guilt and low self-esteem that then triggered purging. It was also believed that anorexia, the refusal to eat, was brought on by a sense of inferiority caused by the person comparing him or herself to some impossible physical ideal, like those portrayed in magazines or in films. And so anorexia was considered psychological as well. While this is certainly true and both have psychological components, it is now possible that both disorders are also psychiatric, because they appear to have physical origin in the brain. New studies have shown a difference in the area of the brain that regulates appetite. Those suffering from bulimia have an exaggerated sense of appetite and the sense of appetite is diminished in those suffering from anorexia. While research is still in the early stages, it does offer hope that medical treatment will one day be available.

Even so, our brains are very malleable. It is possible to control both anorexia and bulimia through psychological means.

Techniques for coping with bulimia and anorexia are based on desensitizing or eliminating those psychological triggers that stimulate the behavior. This behavior is often programmed at some point rather early in life. Girls are often confronted with unrealistic physical ideas during puberty, teenage and young adult years. If these ideals are accompanied by teasing or bullying because of appearance, an eating disorder may result. Other triggers can be a poor family situation, stress or a sense of inadequacy brought on by constant criticism.

The key to recovery is in taking the first step, acknowledging that you have a problem and asking for help. The next step is to find those specialists who can help with your recovery, such as nutritionists who specialize in eating disorders. The idea is to get professionally trained people on your side so that you are no longer coping alone. Therapy is the third step. The experts you have consulted in step two can help you decide what therapy is right for you. There are many types of therapy from group therapy to individual counseling. One of the most successful therapies is Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, which helps you identify and neutralize your personal behavior triggers.

An important part of bulimia and anorexia is the use food as a coping mechanism to deal with painful emotions. They are attempts to gain control or comfort or to punish oneself. There are healthier ways to deal with emotional problems than under or overeating. Those ways are available to you. You need only reach out to find them.

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