Purging disorder

Purging disorder is a serious, yet often underdiagnosed eating disorder and behavioural addiction that affects both adolescents and adults. Sadly, for the 1.25 million people who are currently suffering from an eating disorder in the UK, it can feel like there is no escape. If you are feeling trapped by your eating habits, the team at Banbury Lodge can help you to overcome your purging disorder and develop a healthier relationship with food and body image.

Purging disorder pills at bedside

What is purging disorder?

Most people are familiar with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, however, purging disorder is less well-known. You may be wondering what exactly leads to a diagnosis of purging disorder, and what the difference is between this and other conditions.

The DSM-5 characterises purging disorder as engaging in purging behaviours without the eating binges associated with bulimia. This could be in the form of self-induced vomiting, the consumption of laxatives, using enemas or excessively exercising.

How does purging disorder develop?

Purging disorder can develop in a number of ways – genetics, chemical imbalances in the brain and environmental factors can all play a role in the onset of this condition. Purging disorder may be triggered by a particularly traumatic event or chronic stress, for example, suffering childhood abuse or being bullied at school.

Whether this begins with a hurtful comment that is taken to heart or from the constant bombardment of photoshopped or edited images on social media, purging disorder can have devastating effects on its victims. Those with purging disorder often experience negative, unrealistic thoughts about their body image and food. These thoughts gradually turn into obsessions, spiralling out of control until all the individual can think about is losing weight or obtaining the ‘perfect’ figure.

While purging disorder occurs most commonly in adolescent females, it is possible to succumb to the condition at any stage in life, no matter your gender. In fact, studies have shown that males make up at least 25% of all those diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Side effects of purging disorder

Purging disorder can have many serious and damaging side effects and can cause long-lasting health issues. Some of the side effects of purging disorder include:

  • Feeling faint
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies
  • Tooth decay and oral problems
  • Damage to the oesophagus
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Heartburn and acid reflux
  • Prolapsed rectum
  • Rectal bleeding and blood in stool
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Damage to the kidney and pancreas
  • Disruption to bowel function
  • Seizures
  • Death

So while your obsession may be focused on getting the perfect figure, the irony is that your purging disorder is actually causing a great deal of harm to your body and internal organs. Banbury Lodge can help you to change the false narrative you have surrounding your image and help you to change unhealthy behaviour patterns.

Does my family member have purging disorder?

It can be challenging to recognise the symptoms of purging disorder as most people will try to hide their purging behaviours. They may also appear to eat normally and could display an average weight. However, some signs that your loved one may have a purging disorder include:

  • Fear or anxiety around eating or gaining weight
  • Obsession with losing weight
  • Engaging in excessive exercise
  • Self-esteem or body confidence issues
  • Rushing to the bathroom after meals
  • Frequent complaints of diarrhoea, heartburn or sore throat
  • Self-induced vomiting may cause scarring on the hands as the hands drag against the teeth

Purging disorder woman with heartburn

While these signs may indicate a problem with food and body image, it is important to speak to a professional to obtain a proper diagnosis. If you suspect your family member has purging disorder, it is vital that you approach them with kindness and understanding, offer your support and encourage them to seek appropriate treatment.

Is treatment available for purging disorder?

It is possible to treat eating disorders such as purging disorder and Banbury Lodge offers a comprehensive treatment programme that can heal both the mind and body. Our treatment programme consists of two key aspects: rehab treatment and aftercare.

Purging disorder rehab

Throughout purging disorder rehab, you will attend a range of individual and group therapy sessions. At Banbury Lodge, this includes:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Art therapy
  • Sound therapy
  • Workshops
  • Family therapy
  • Relapse prevention

With a combination of these treatments, you are more likely to see positive results. Our team focuses on delivering supportive care that targets the root cause of your purging disorder, enabling you to gain a full understanding of what led to your issues around food.

Purging disorder aftercare

Purging disorder aftercare is just as important as rehab itself, as it provides you will an essential support system and ongoing motivation to continue your recovery. Banbury Lodge offers 1 year of free aftercare to all of our clients which means you can join weekly therapy sessions and meet with peers who are also in recovery.

Purging disorder can often make you feel like you are all alone, leading to isolation, worsened anxiety and exacerbated symptoms. By attending aftercare, you will be part of an inclusive community and can ensure your purging disorder does not win.

Tips for successful purging disorder treatment

It is important to remember that, in order for treatment to be successful, you need to be ready and willing to make a change. A rehab centre can provide you with all the tools you need to overcome your eating disorder, but without the desire to implement these tools, it is unlikely you will make a full recovery.

Having said that, there are some important steps you can take to ensure your purging disorder rehab is successful:

  • Be informed: knowing what to expect from your treatment can help to ease any worries you may have about rehab.
  • Practise loving yourself: talk kindly to yourself and make sure you are nourishing your body instead of punishing it.
  • Prioritise self-care: your well-being is important and you can look after this by engaging in activities or hobbies you enjoy.
  • Build a support network: open up to the people you trust the most and ask for help when you need it.
  • Remember that recovery is never straightforward: treatment and recovery will be full of ups and downs – it is important to remain focused on your goal, even on the bad days.
  • Dedicate yourself to treatment: by immersing yourself in therapy, you can ensure you get the best out of your time in rehab.

Purging disorder, just like any other eating disorder, is a complex condition. Recovery takes time and challenges may pop up when you least expect them to. By putting in the hard work, alongside the right treatment plan, it is possible to regain control of your eating habits and live a healthier life.

What’s next?

Although you may have completed purging disorder rehab, the hard work does not stop there. The real challenge begins when you head back home. As you are faced with stressors that could potentially trigger a relapse, one key advantage will be the lessons you have learned at Banbury Lodge. Our highly skilled therapists ensure you leave our doors with a toolkit of coping mechanisms and the ability to recognise and put a stop to negative thought patterns before they have a chance to spiral out of control.

Banbury Lodge is dedicated to providing the very best care to every single one of our clients. With our guidance, you will be able to break free from constant worries about body image and be able to fully enjoy life.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between purging disorder and bulimia?
Bulimia is characterised by bingeing on large quantities of food with a seeming lack of control, followed by purging in order to compensate. Purging disorder, however, does not involve bingeing and individuals will usually eat a normal amount of food.
Is purging disorder a mental illness?
Purging disorder is classified as a mental disorder, specifically an eating disorder. It is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) under Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED).
Does purging disorder develop at any specific age?
There is no specific age associated with the development of purging disorder, however, it is most commonly seen in adolescent girls. Despite this, eating disorders like purging disorder have been diagnosed in people as young as 6, and some cases have been reported in people over 70 years old. Purging disorder is more likely to be recognised, and therefore treated, in individuals who fit the stereotypical age bracket, but it is important to remember that this condition can affect anyone.
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