Purging Disorder

Purging Disorder

How to identify signs of this eating disorder

What is Purging Disorder?

Purging Disorder is an eating disorder characterized by the incessant need to purge by way of (primarily) vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, and excessive exercise to rid the body of food to lose weight or prevent weight gain. Purging Disorder falls under the OSFED category which stands for Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. When an eating disorder falls under the umbrella term of OSFED it essentially means that it does not fall under the standard or typical criteria of Anorexia, Bulimia, or Binge Eating Disorder. All eating disorders that fall under the OSFED label should not be treated as one, they still have their own idiosyncrasy, deserving of unique attention and treatment. Purging Disorder is adjacent to Bulimia, however, is not categorized as a subset of Bulimia because those who struggle with Purging Disorder become obsessed with purging, regardless of consumption size. Those with Purging Disorder typically don’t suffer from binges at all, a purge happens after consumption to compensate for said consumption to stave off weight gain and attempt to lose weight.

Who is affected by Purging Disorder?

Like all other eating disorders, there is no clear, definitive, or acute cause of. Therefore it is impossible to identify who specifically is affected by Purging Disorder. What there are, however, are similar emotions, sentiments, and situations that those who have been diagnosed or engage with eating disorders share. They are, but are not limited to:

  • Nature (lived experiences)
  • Nurture (your genetics)
  • Self-worth
  • Self-confidence
  • Pre-existing mental conditions
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Trauma
  • Health conditions (allergies, sensitivities)

How is Purging Disorder different from Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa?

Purging Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa and independent of each other. They both, however, share a similar tenant in the act of purging. Those with Bulimia binge prior to a purge, whereas those with PD do not. Purging Disorder and Anorexia Nervosa besides both eating disorders to not share any shared behaviours. Those who suffer from Anorexia limit food intake to remain at a particular weight or to try and lose, whereas those with purging disorder purge after consumption.

What are other disorders that occur alongside Purging Disorder?

According to VeryWellMind.com, Patients with purging disorder often have other psychological disorders:

  • Up to 70% have a mood disorder4
  • Up to 43% have an anxiety disorder
  • Up to 17% have a substance use disorder

What are the risks of Purging Disorder?

The risk impacts of Purging Disorder are as follows, however not limited to:

    Tooth decay and tooth enamel wearing

    Throat swelling

    Facial swelling

    Cardiovascular irregularities

    Russell’s sign

  • Calloused and bruised hands, in particular, knuckles
  • small lacerations on the back of the hand

    Digestive problems, constipation, diarrhea


    Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

    Thinning hair

    Irregular sleep

    Irritated esophagus, possible abrasions, rupture at its most serious 

What is the treatment for Purging Disorder?

Eating Disorder treatments can loosely follow the same kinds of treatment, regardless of what disorder the individual is suffering from. It is important to acknowledge that eating disorders are psychological disorders with cascading impacts on the mind and body, meaning it is critical to treat the psyche first and foremost.  Engaging in therapy is a necessary step and practice for Purging Disorder. Coupled with therapy, nutritional counselling has also been identified as a helpful tool. Nutrition counselling can help increase the patient’s understanding of food, its importance to our bodies, dispel inaccurate food beliefs, and enlighten on the lasting impact and damage purging has.

 Related Article: Purging Disorder vs Bulimia Nervosa

Dr. Natalie Mulligan graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). She completed her clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic with a focused interest in mental health. Prior to attending CCNM, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Waterloo.