Sunday, January 24, 2021

What is purging disorder?

January 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Bulimia, Eating Disorders, EDNOS

This guest post provided by Heidi_PsyD from

“We took her to doctors who just didn’t know what to call it,” says Andie, referring to her daughter Kelli. “Her weight was ok, and she didn’t binge, but she was throwing up after every meal. I just didn’t know what to do. I finally found someone who specialized in treating eating disorders, and she was able to help Kelli. What a rollercoaster.”

It’s not “sexy” like anorexia, and unlike anorexics, people with this disorder are generally of average weight. And it’s not bulimia — there’s no binging.

Kelli has purging disorder, an eating disorder characterized by vomiting after meals. Unlike with its cousin, bulimia, people with purging disorder do not binge prior to purging and generally do not overeat. Other methods of purging include use of laxatives, diuretics or compulsive exercising. While once thought to be relatively rare, we now know that purging disorder is more common than anorexia or bulimia according to eating disorders watch group Anorexia and Related Disorders (ANAD).

University of Iowa researcher Pamela Keel has been studying purging disorder since 2007. “Purging disorder is new in the sense that it has not been officially recognized as a unique condition in the classification of eating disorders. But it’s not a new problem,” Keel said. “Women were struggling with purging disorder long before we began studying it.”

Although Keel and others are certain that purging disorder is a distinct eating disorder, it is currently not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. “The bottom line is there are women out there right now who have this condition, and very little is being done to figure out why they have this problem or how to help them with it,” Keel said.

One common sign of purging disorder is obsession about food, weight and appearance. Kelli, for example, kept detailed records of weight goals and a plan to reach those goals. Other signs of the disorder include going to the bathroom after eating, and use of laxatives or diuretics, swollen (chipmunk) cheeks, broken blood vessels in the eyes, and calluses on the knuckles.

Purging disorder has health risks similar to bulimia. These include dehydration, electrolyte imbalances (which can lead to heart problems and death), anemia, low blood pressure, irregular heart beat, and dental problems. People with the disorder are frequently fatigued, one of the side effects of purging. Purging can also lead to anxiety and depression.

If you think that you have purging disorder, please seek help. Here are a number of resources.



19 Responses to “What is purging disorder?”
  1. Chelsea says:

    It’s been interesting to watch more eating disorders be considered “real” and be recognized, such as binge eating disorder. So often a person who suffers with an eating disorder feels they have to fit a narrow definition in order to “really” have one, and those are usually narrowed down to just anorexia and bulimia.

    • Anne says:

      Is the problem with giving it a name, or how we value the name of the cubby hole they think the disordered eating belongs in? Because the medical profession has always had “not otherwise specified” within the DSM when the round peg isn’t quite fitting the right hole.

  2. I suffered purging disorder all through my teens and early 20’s. Nobody ever suspected/believed it, as I was fat. Very fat. It was assumed that I was binging or an overeater.

    It’s a bittersweet thing to see purging recognised as a disorder now.

  3. Chelsea says:

    People often believe that unless you’re skeletal, you can’t have an eating disorder. More people die at a “average” or higher weight from an e.d. than those who are underweight. More people have binge eating disorder than anorexia. We’ve come a long way in getting the word out, but the road ahead is still quite long.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    This makes me want to cry because this is totally me…and I’ve always just felt like I’m in No Man’s Land…My doctors don’t seem to take me seriously because at 5’1 I’m at a weight within normal range… 🙁

    • BP says:

      I know what you mean. I’m also 5’1 and 104 pounds. I’m not losing weight I just do it to maintain weight and it feels good after I purge. =/

    • Heidi Dalzell says:

      Elizabeth — I find your comment so sad but true. It’s time we recognize that EDs come in all shapes and sizes. I hope that your comment helps others.

  5. H says:

    Ha ha, now they have a name for it? It was EDNOS for me (eating disorder not otherwise specified!)… My wish is that ALL eating disorders be recognized because we are all individuals!

  6. Megan says:

    My friend just told me about her doing this, and so I’m doing everything looking it up and trying to understand it more so I can help her out. I don’t understand why she does though, she’s really skinny to start with. But the guy she liked called her fat and she got really upset. Okay just thought I’d share.

  7. Em says:

    This is heartbreaking.
    Cause I still don’t know if this is me.
    I purge. I don’t binge.
    But not after every meal.
    Four times a week at the most.
    Once a month at the least.
    I’m 5’3″ and 125 pounds.
    It’s been 3 years since I started.

    I don’t know what to do!
    Do I really have this?

    • Lynne says:

      Im the same :/
      I have a lot of food intolerances (especially milk protein) and sometimes I eat ice cream or yogurt and purge after, several times in a day. Or sometimes I just feel so horrible after eating a heavy meal I can’t stand the feeling of being full… So I “have to” purge. But sometimes weeks pass when I eat healthy and I don’t feel the urge to purge at all. I wish I could just be healthy all the time.

      • Catherine says:


        I do something similar to what you describe. I have a stomach condition that prohibits me from eating practically anything. Lots of liquids. I am not overweight and not scared of becoming overweight, but sometimes I just lose it and eat something that I know will make me suffer for days if I leave it in my stomach. So I panic and usually make myself throw it up to get it out. But…now this is becoming more and more of a frequent thing. I have gone from doing this a couple times a month to 4 or 5 times a week. It’s become like my freebie…I can drink my liquids all day like a good girl, come home, eat what I really want, throw it up, and then rehydrate with my liquids. I must get most of it up because I don’t get sick from the food…but I know I am hurting my body and I don’t know how to stop this. It’s something I actually look forward to some days. I am seeking therapy through my school (I am a grad student) and I am hoping they will be able to help me.


    • Mandy says:

      Hey em!

      You sound just like me…
      I know how you feel.

      I’ve starting to binge when I was 17 years old,I’m 26 now. I’ve been boulimic and had a stage of anorexia and I remember becoming extremly skinny. Now I’m regular size, but I seem to never like my body.

      Now, I’m what they call having a purging disorder.It’s like the ”leftover” of my other disorders. As if I was scared from it.

      I don’t do it every day. Sometimes I go months without purging. Sometimes it will happen 3 days in a row. Randomly, today I did and it had been a couple of months it hadn’t.

      I hate feeling full! Can’t stand it!

      I had come to a conclusion with my life coach that it had a lot to do with stressfull situations.

      I’ve learned to live with it and accept it…

      We are not alone.

  8. Ann says:

    I was surprised to see how many people have this purging disorder and that it doesn’t have it’s own classification. Jeez People who abuse insulin to control weight have a title. Too bad more attention isnt given to this disorder & actually treated as a disorder. I wish there were support groups for this.

  9. Maureen says:

    My type of purgin is d worst,i get hungry all d tym & if i eat i purge it out,wat d hell is wrong wit me??????,coz am losin it out,

  10. Lisa says:

    I have been losing weight sucessfully, but found it incresingly difficult to say no to nice foods, so have starting having them, but guilt makes me make myself sick! I desperately want to stop this, but cant!

  11. Lexie says:

    I finally feel like I found a place where I belong

  12. HellOnPills says:

    I purge, after everything. It’s a stress reliever, not so much a weight loss or control issue. I have been suffering from this for about 17 years and it is getting worse, so much so that I have basically quit eating all together. What is the treatment for this? There is none.

    I have children, my boyfriend tells me to just eat, like it’s really that easy. I wish I could, I wish I could make this go away, it’s embarrassing and I feel like shit 24/7. I am a hot mess inside and out because of this and I feel like it’s going to just keep getting worse and worse each day that goes by.

  13. Yvette says:

    Is it normal for a person to be purging on its .. with no laxatives or anything..
    Cuz that’s what happening to me .. i don’t drink any laxatives or anything that comes close to that .. and I have been told that R u purging ??

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