Can Someone Have Bulimia Without Bingeing?
Eating Disorder Hope explains that when people think about purging behavior within the context of eating disorders, it tends to be associated with binge eating; when someone is engaging in a harmful cycle of binge eating followed by purging, it means that they are suffering from bulimia nervosa. According to Eating Disorder Hope, though, someone does not have to binge eat in order to engage in purging, which is a compensatory behavior that might include exercising compulsively, self-inducing vomiting, or misusing laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.
When someone engages in purging behaviors after small or relatively “normal”-sized meals, it likely means that they are suffering from purging disorder. In the DSM 5, purging disorder is located under the classification of Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OFSED). And while there are currently no statistics that represent how many people are affected by purging disorder, the eating disorder community is very aware of the potential havoc this issue can wreak on someone’s mind as well as their body.
It is important to note that compensatory behaviors without purging first can also occur in people suffering from anorexia nervosa. However, if someone’s symptoms do not align with other diagnostic criteria for anorexia, they could be suffering from purging disorder.
Physical Side Effects of Purging Disorder
Eating Disorder Hope says that though there are many different ways someone can purge, they tend to have similar side effects. These might include:
- Vital organ damage
- Electrolyte imbalances
If someone specifically purges by abusing laxatives, they may experience the following:
- Constipation (if they stop taking laxatives)
- Rectal bleeding
- Chronic diarrhea
And if someone is purging by throwing up, they can experience:
- Broken blood vessels in the neck and face
- Dental issues
- Swelling of the throat
Psychological Side Effects of Purging Disorder
Purging disorder can also have profound psychological effects on someone who is suffering from it. Purging behaviors can become compulsions, because these actions can be addictive for people. In general, any type of purging is often associated with a desire to relieve anxiety or feeling a loss of control, though these behaviors make both feelings worse in the long term. Other psychological effects of purging disorder could include:
- Mood swings
- High anxiety
Furthermore, people can experience a worsening of any co-occurring mental health issues they have because behaviors associated with purging and other eating disorders can force a person into isolation. Furthermore, if someone is self-inducing vomiting, the chemical changes that result from the act can also directly make someone’s anxiety and depression worse.
If you or someone you love is experiencing an eating disorder, you may wish to contact an eating disorder hotline. And while eating disorders are indeed severe illnesses, they are also, thankfully, treatable; you can find assistance with finding eating disorder treatment in the United States here. If you find yourself in a crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 at any time to be put in touch with a properly trained individual. Additionally, we are here to help you at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You can reach us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.