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What is Purging Disorder? How is it Different from Other Eating Disorders?

What is Purging Disorder? How is it Different from Other Eating Disorders?

What is purging disorder and how is it different from other eating disorders? You may be familiar with conditions and terms like anorexia, binging, and bulimia, but how are they different? Read on to learn more about purging disorder.

What is purging disorder?

Purging means to throw out or cleanse, often suddenly and in large amounts. Medically, purging typically involves intentionally vomiting or triggering bowel movements. As a disorder, purging is linked to poor mental health and self-perception.

People with purging disorder are not satisfied or happy with their bodies, particularly their weight or size. In an effort to lose weight, they may force themselves to vomit after a meal or take laxatives to cleanse their bowels. In some cases, people may purge even without eating meals.

what is purging disorder

Despite a person’s good intentions to reach their body goals, purging is destructive and dangerous to health. Purging can cause the following:

How is it different from other eating disorders?

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder, or just binging, often accompanies purging disorder. However, binging and purging are two separate things. In binge eating disorder, people have recurring episodes of eating large volumes of food in one sitting. This is estimated to happen about once a week for 3 months.

Oftentimes, binging results in a feeling of guilt or disgust. As a reaction, a person may either stop eating for some time or force themselves to vomit. In recent years, the online trend known as mukbang has tip-toed between entertainment and glorifying binge eating.

To further elaborate, a person who habitually binge eats then purges afterward has a condition known as binge-purge disorder. One who repeatedly binge eats then abstains from food for prolonged periods of time has the binge subtype of anorexia.

What is Purging Disorder

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is possibly the most known eating disorder. People with anorexia skip meals, eat very few calories, and tend to be obsessed with their weight. The disorder is more than just wanting to lose weight or look a certain way; anorexia and other eating disorders have a major psychological component.

People with anorexia often see themselves as overweight or “fat” even if the scale or their peers say otherwise. They may have an intense fear of gaining weight and can display obsessive-compulsive behavior relating to food.

While the stereotypical anorexic person is a frail, young woman, anorexia can affect anyone regardless of their sex, age, or body composition. Extreme thinness may be due to prolonged anorexia; however, people with healthy or high BMIs can also be anorexic.

What is Purging Disorder


Avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder that generally starts in early childhood but can carry on into adulthood. It is an eating disorder manifested by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutrition and/or energy needs.

This is associated with one (or more) of the following: (a) significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in children), (b) significant nutritional deficiency, (c) dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements or (d) marked interference with psychosocial functioning..

When severe enough, ARFID can cause malnutrition, stunted growth, and delayed development in children. In adults, ARFID can hinder social interactions and productivity. It is important to note that ARFID does not include avoiding food due to allergies or religious reasons.

How is purging disorder diagnosed and treated?

As with all eating disorders, purging disorder should be diagnosed and treated by a specialist. Seek consultation from your doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist if you are concerned about your body and eating habits. After diagnosis, your doctor will address the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of the disorder. It is helpful to have a strong support group along the way.

Common Myths and Facts About Eating Disorders

Key takeaways

Purging disorder is one of several eating disorders that people may experience. Purging or bulimia can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or health status. Surrounding yourself with healthy body images and avoiding body shaming are ways to reduce the risk of developing eating disorders. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns regarding your weight or overall health.

Learn more about Eating Disorders here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Purging disorder recent advances and future challenges https://journals.lww.com/co-psychiatry/Abstract/2019/11000/Purging_disorder__recent_advances_and_future.9.aspx Accessed January 6, 2021

Bulimia Nervosa/Purging Disorder https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28532966/ Accessed January 6, 2021

BINGE EATING DISORDER https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed Accessed January 6, 2021

BULIMIA NERVOSA https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bulimia Accessed January 6, 2021

ARFID https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid Accessed January 6, 2021

Purging disorder https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-28278-011 Accessed January 6, 2021

Binge-eating disorder https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/binge-eating-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353627 Accessed January 6, 2021

A naturalistic, long-term follow-up of purging disorder https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/abs/naturalistic-longterm-followup-of-purging-disorder/A5B4BBF0C530D22181169F17F7CBFFB5 Accessed January 6, 2021

The Psychology of Mukbang Watching: A Scoping Review of the Academic and Non-academic Literature https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11469-019-00211-0 Accessed January 6, 2021

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Written by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD Updated May 26