Why Purging Can Be Dangerous to Your Health

Oct 06, 2023
Why Purging Can Be Dangerous to Your Health
Although not as well-known as bulimia and anorexia, purging disorder is just as dangerous — and its symptoms are just as unpleasant. Read on to learn about purging disorders and the risks it brings.

Eating disorders aren’t talked about a lot in the media, but they’re surprisingly common, affecting millions of Americans. What’s more, eating disorders are on the rise, especially among teens and adolescents

The prevalence of eating disorders isn’t the only thing that tends to be overlooked or misunderstood: Many people underestimate how serious these disorders can be. In fact, eating disorders cause more than 10,000 deaths every year in the United States, making them one of the deadliest types of mental illness.

As much as 5% of the population suffers from a type of eating disorder known as purging. Sharing characteristics of anorexia nervosa and bulimia, purging disorder is associated with serious health risks that can have long-term implications for overall wellness.

At Cora Health Solutions, located in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona, Betsy Serrano, PMHNP, offers effective, compassionate therapy for patients with purging disorders, helping people of all ages manage their symptoms and reduce their risks of complications. We want you to what purging disorder is and how it can harm your health and wellness.

What to know about purging disorder

Like other eating disorders, purging disorder typically develops when a person has unpleasant or anxious thoughts about their appearance, their weight, or food itself. Usually, they have unrealistic expectations and abnormal perceptions about their body weight, shape, or size.

Purging disorder results in people using self-induced vomiting, diarrhea, or bowel movements to get rid of food. Unlike bulimia, binge-eating usually is not involved in purging disorder, and most people with purging disorder are of average weight, differentiating it from anorexia.

To increase bowel movements or cause diarrhea, people with purging disorder misuse laxatives or diuretics, medications to increase urination and deplete natural fluids. Researchers aren’t sure what causes purging disorder (or other eating disorders), but they believe these behaviors may be due to a combination of factors, like brain chemical imbalances, extreme stress, abuse, or even genetics.

The serious dangers of purging disorder

Purging can have serious and even life-threatening implications for your health and wellness. Emotionally, purging perpetuates feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-worth, low self-esteem, and self-loathing, each of which promotes purging activities. Together, these effects create a cycle that can be very difficult to break on your own.

Physically, purging effects can be roughly divided into effects stemming from either vomiting or diuretic and laxative abuse.

Self-induced vomiting

Acids associated with vomiting quickly wear away tooth enamel, increasing risks of tooth sensitivity, cavities, and even tooth loss. Repeated vomiting can lead to irritation of the gums, throat, and esophagus, along with oral bleeding and salivary gland swelling and dysfunction.

Over time, repeated vomiting can weaken the muscular sphincter that separates the esophagus and the stomach, leading to gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Less common complications include neck bone fracture, musculoskeletal abnormalities, and gastrointestinal tract perforations when instruments used to induce vomiting are accidentally swallowed.

Laxative and diuretic misuse

Misuse of laxatives is associated with bowel function impairment, cardiac arrest, and seizures. Some patients develop a life-threatening complication called rhabdomyolysis or a breaking down of muscle tissue, or a serious bone disorder called osteomalacia (softening of bone tissue).

Diuretic abuse can lead to kidney stones, kidney inflammation, and permanent kidney damage or failure. Depleting your body of fluids can quickly lead to electrolyte imbalances that in turn can cause musculoskeletal complications, motor impairment, seizures, and life-threatening heart problems.

Like other eating disorders, purging often occurs alongside other mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. Concurrent treatment for these disorders plays an important role in purging management for many patients at Cora Health Solutions.

Help for eating disorders

It’s important to note that while eating disorders can be life-threatening, they’re highly treatable. The guilt and shame associated with eating disorders like purging disorder can be tough to overcome. If you have or suspect you have an eating disorder, call 602-907-5300 today or book an appointment online with Cora Health Solutions. We offer treatments that can help.