Telltale Symptoms of Purging Disorder

Purging disorder is characterized by an obsession to control weight or body shape through purging, either by self-inducing vomiting, or using laxative, enemas, or diuretics. Unlike anorexia nervosa, the person suffering from purging disorder eats normal amounts of food and has typically normal weight and body proportions and unlike bulimia nervosa, they do not eat excessive amounts of food or are binge eaters.


The causes of purging disorders are complex. They can be a combination of biological, social, mental health, and environmental factors that have brought about the purging habits. Once started, the person has a continuous need to purge in order to relieve their fear of gaining weight or to gain some sense of empowerment or control which helps them to avert any underlying emotions or other fears that they have become be preoccupied with.

Physical Health Risks

Purging disorders can cause serious harm to a person’s physical health. Vitamin deficiencies, dehydration, or electrolyte imbalances can damage organs, lead to infections, or cause hormone imbalances, and anemia. Cardiovascular problems such as low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, or slow heart rate can lead to death. Other serious health complications include immune system problems, kidney infections, and problems with the throat, teeth, mouth, esophagus, and digestive system.

Psychological Health Risks

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders “frequently coexist with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders.” Left untreated, these issues can become worse, causing harmful or suicidal tendencies and other maladaptive behaviors. Treatment involves counseling and therapy options to help the person develop alternative coping behaviors besides purging.

Telltale Symptoms of Purging Disorder

eating disorders

Purging disorder involves purging after eating often.

The most common symptoms of purging involve:

  • Vomiting immediately after eating. The person may go straight to the bathroom and even be anxious about doing so because they look forward to the temporary release.
  • Overly concerned about food and weight
  • Intense or irrational fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image and self-esteem influenced by perceptions of weight and body shape
  • Obsessive behaviors or self-loathing
  • Chronically inflamed or sore throat
  • Regular use of laxatives to speed up digestive process
  • Regular use of diuretics to decrease water weight
  • Swollen glands in the neck or jaw from excessive vomiting
  • Tooth enamel erosion from exposure to stomach acids
  • Acid reflux disorder or esophagus problems
  • Digestive or intestinal irritations
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • Scrapes or calluses on knuckles from using fingers to induce vomiting


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