4 Harmful Impacts Of this Purging Eating Disorder
Have you ever heard of an Eating Disorder that can be dangerous for your physical and mental
health? Well, let me introduce you to one. Purging Disorder is a widespread eating disorder
that can occur in any age group but most frequently occurs in females aged 16-30. As per latest statistics ,eating disorders affect 10 million men and 20 million women in the US.
Purging Disorder is an abnormal behaviour characterised by self-induced vomiting to lose
weight or alter the body shape. There are many ways to induce vomiting, such as:
● Laxatives abuse
● Excessive exercise
● Self-induced vomiting
In my clinical experience so far, whatever patients I have encountered who have Purging
Disorders have a significantly compromised quality of life compared to the rest of the
population. They have the most difficulty leading a healthy lifestyle when the symptoms of
Purging Disorder peak. Symptoms include:
● Frequent episodes of purging behaviours, as discussed above
● Persistent anxiety about gaining pounds
● Disturbed social and personal life
● Low self-esteem due to undesired body weight and shape
Disordered thoughts and actions in individuals with Purging Disorder can rapidly lead to
compulsions that threaten to overtake every minute of daily life. Eating Disorders that can
hamper day-to-day activities and generally disrupt the quality of life include Purging Disorder,
Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa, Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and Binge-eating
A study conducted in 2013 showed that individuals with Eating Disorders had a markedly
decreased quality of life, with Binging and Purging Disorders having the maximal negative
In this article, we will discuss how Eating Disorders, especially Purging Disorder, can affect
your mental health, physical well-being, social life, and personal relationships.
1. Impact of Purging Disorder on mental health
Most of us are aware of the physical consequences of self-induced vomiting. Most teenagers
and young adults don’t know the effect of this Eating Disorder on mental health. It is common for
a person with an Eating Disorder to have concurrent mental health issues. You or your loved
one might have severe depression before developing purging behaviours. It is not unusual for
an individual with a Purging Disorder to develop new mental health diseases. The most
commonly occurring mental health disorders include:
● Post-traumatic stress disorder
● Obsessive-compulsive disorder
● Attention deficit hyperactive disorder
Purging behaviours result in starvation. Do you agree? Are we meant to live this way? No, not at
all! We aren’t capable of functioning adequately without a proper diet. Let me get into some
scientific details here. A persistent reduction in food intake causes a decrease in the rate at
which our body burns energy. When this happens, your brain operates on a deficit.
Unsurprisingly, a weak brain would need help thinking clearly, regulating emotions effectively,
and making strong-headed decisions.
All the research papers I have read so far show that self-induced vomiting results in anxiety,
irritability, depression, mood swings, reduced enthusiasm, intense and pessimistic emotional
reactions, no motivation to achieve anything in life, leading a purposeless life, poor
concentration, stiff behaviour, obsessive thought process, and compromised alertness.
All individuals suffering from purging disorder have maximal damage to one organ, brain.
Your mind follows your body, and if your body is unhealthy, your mind can never perform its due
2.How can Purging Disorder affect your physical well-being?
Common physical ailments I have seen in patients with Purging Disorder include dental issues
where forceful vomiting can alter the appearance and texture of teeth. It occurs due to acid
reflux that damages the tooth enamel, and teeth turn yellow or brown and even fall out. An
individual’s digestive tract, mainly the oesophagus, becomes irritated, damaged, and sometimes
ruptured by induced vomiting. It results in increased laxity of the gastro-oesophagal sphincter,
which contributes to the reflux of stomach contents and acid, causing heartburn and acidity.
Gastric acid may also injure our voice box and throat, resulting in dry cough, sore throat,
difficulty swallowing and long-term throat-clearing problems.
Can you imagine Purging Disorder can cause nosebleeds and red eye patches? Yes, all of this
happens due to weakness caused by excessive loss of essential nutrients from the body. Have
you ever heard of Russell’s sign? Only medical students or psych enthusiasts would be aware
of this terminology. Callouses and scratches appear on the knuckles due to repeated interaction
between teeth and hands if fingers are used to induce vomit.
I have seen critically ill patients with disturbed electrolytes, especially sodium, potassium, and
chloride. These electrolytes are crucial for the body’s normal functioning as they conduct proper
electrical and nerve impulses. A drastic drop in electrolyte levels can result in seizures, cardiac
arrest, and paralysis. Repeated forceful vomiting over a long duration can result in a
dysfunctional digestive tract where food becomes hard to swallow. It causes abdominal bloating,
pain, and discomfort.
I can go on to talk about physical problems caused by Purging Disorder, but I don’t want to
scare my readers so much that they feel there is no way out. We will indeed discuss the coping
mechanism and treatment plan at the end.
3.Compromised social life and interpersonal relations
One of the drastic impacts of Purging Disorder on an individual can be minimal to zero social
life. Such a person becomes distant from everyone and begins spending more time in isolation.
Loneliness makes their harmful thoughts and self-esteem worse. Socialising means hanging out
with friends, playing games, and having food with them in public places. I have keenly observed
in my patients that they would spend less time with their friends or take almost no part in social
Eating Disorders often involve developing particular eating habits and routines. Thus, socialising
becomes complex as different activities can disrupt that eating routine. My patients often
complain of feeling too tired or weak to go out and meet with friends, and they also avoid
crowded places and call themselves introverted and self-conscious. Self-induced vomiting
causes people to make up excuses to avoid going out and meeting with friends.
I had a young female patient who loved sports, partying, and going out with friends before she
became body conscious and developed Purging Disorder. However, she could not leave her
room as her depression worsened due to her Eating Disorder.
Individuals with this particular mental illness associate eating with feeling lazy or unworthy.
When consuming food in public, they feel self-conscious and like they are being observed or
judged by others. Due to an Eating Disorder, some of my patients stopped spending time with
family as they feared their unusual behaviour might become evident and the loved ones would
start making fun of them.
4.Unattractive personality and poor physical appearance
The number of patients I have encountered with Purging Disorder who come to me for
counselling have an unusually high level of harm avoidance. It is a personality trait
characterised by worry, negative thinking, doubt, and lack of confidence.
Various research papers show individuals with Eating Disorders, especially Purging Disorder,
tend to have decreased self-directedness. You may ask to elaborate on self-directedness, an
ability to adapt and regulate behaviours per circumstances or a specific target. Such people also
possess low levels of anger and impulsivity, as this food disorder is associated with rigid lifestyle
and diet rules.
I believe patients with Purging Disorder recover if given proper treatment. However,
harm-avoidance traits persist in their personality. The key idea here is to practice positive
self-affirmations and determine which coping mechanisms can help you healthily combat
I have helped several patients devise a proactive plan to develop a solution to enhance their
self-directedness during their recovery from Purging Disorder. Usually,therapists try to
increase impulsivity during treatment, breaking down specific barriers patients tend to cling to
Purging Disorder has a very negative impact on individuals’ physical appearance. Self-induced
vomiting causes salivary glands to become swollen. Do you want to know why that happens?
Salivary glands increase saliva production in response to vomiting to protect the oral cavity from
gastric acid. In frequent vomiting, the salivary glands increase to cope with overstimulation. Additionally,it can result in the deterioration of the overall facial outlook. Moreover, purple spots also appear on the skin due to raised intravascular pressure, causing immense stress and anxiousness.
Purging Disorder is hard to treat but not impossible! I have treated patients with a combination
of therapy and medication. I am mentioning down below a few ways to cope with this exhausting
● Seek professional help. Book an appointment with a healthcare professional or
psychiatrist specialising in treating Eating Disorders.
● Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It can assist in identifying negative thoughts in your mind
and behavioural patterns that serve as a trigger for forceful vomiting.
● Medication. Medicines such as antidepressants work wonders in treating most Eating
● Nutritional Therapy. Working with a registered dietician can help individuals develop
healthy eating habits and eliminate triggers.
● Family Therapy. Involving family members or loved ones in therapy sessions can help
create a supportive environment and address any interpersonal issues contributing to