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.
Despite a person’s good intentions to reach their body goals, purging is destructive and dangerous to health. Purging can cause the following:
- Esophageal and oral erosions (due to stomach acid destroying the mucosa)
- Mouth sores
- Weakened, yellowed tooth enamel
- Tooth decay and cavities
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Electrolyte imbalance and dehydration
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 eat large volumes of food in one sitting.
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.
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 psychologic 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.
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 more than just being a picky eater or having favorite type of food. The disorder involves not showing interest in eating or having an aversion to food because of its smell, taste, texture, color, etc.
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 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.
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.