Eating disorder behaviours: The costs and risks of vomiting/purging
A behaviour that is often used in people with eating disorders is purging. A common misconception is that purging is vomiting and that alone, purging can actually also take form in over exercising & using laxatives. In this blog post I will be focusing on the act of vomiting and will make separate blog posts about over exercising and laxative abuse. A lot of the time people do not actually realise how dangerous self induced vomiting can be and I hope that this post can make people more aware of risks that come along with.
So, I think it is important to start off by discussing the perceived benefits of vomiting as some people will not understand why people who struggle with eating disorders self induce vomiting.
- Somebody struggling with an eating disorder may feel slimmer after being sick.
- Anxious emotions that they feel once they have eaten can feel as though the are being released.
- They may feel like they are getting rid of calories that they have eaten that day.
- The act of vomiting can be used as a coping strategy to deal with difficult emotions
In reality a lot of the calories will not be lost through self induced vomiting as food can get pushed down further through retching. If you really think about when are you sick, when you haven’t forced yourself to be? The only time that people are sick is when they are poorly! Your body should not be vomiting often. We vomit when we have a virus or bacteria that our bodies need to get out and vomiting regularly can put a lot of strain on us and it is so dangerous.
Now lets discuss the costs of vomiting/purging
- Tooth erosion and decay- The acid in vomit can cause our teeth to decay and erode. Your teeth can become weaker and more brittle which means that they can chip more easily and unfortunately I have caused damage to my teeth as they look slightly ragged. My dentist actually picked up on the damage I had done to my teeth along time before I was ready to admit I had a problem, and asked me if there was anything I needed to tell him about eating issues and I lied to him and said no.
- Sore mouth and throat- Acid in the vomit can cause the oesophagus to tear or become irritated. A sign of this may be blood in the vomit our throats can also swell when self inducing vomiting and it can cause a lot of pain.
- Heartburn and acid reflux- Another side effect that comes along with self induced vomiting is heartburn and acid reflux. This is caused because the sphincter that controls the esophagus can become weaker and this can cause acid to go back up into the esophagus which then causes more symptoms.
- Swelling of the face- When we are sick the salivary glands swell which causes our faces to swell and look puffy
- Tiredness- People can become lethargic and lose energy due to the loss of vital minerals through vomiting.
- Damage to the heart- SUCH AN IMPORTANT ONE! This is the main one that scared me into accepting that I needed help. Water and salt imbalances and electrolyte imbalance can cause damage to the heart, muscles and brain. Kidney function can also be affected and in severe cases of bulimia it can be life threatening as it can cause heart attacks. Even now I have been in independent recovery for 4 and a half years I still get heart palpitations and irregular beats to my heart.
- Haemorrhages- Lining of gullet can ulcerate and bleed and could become life threatening if a haemorrhage occurs.
- Pregnancy complications – Self induced vomiting can stop ovulation.
I hope that this blog post has helped to inform you on some of the things you could be potentially be putting yourself at risk of and I hope that it can encourage you to seek the help that you deserve. If you have any of these side effects please speak up! Tell a loved one, go to your doctor or call a helpline (I have helplines on this website which you can access by scrolling up and clicking where it says helplines).
I hope you are all doing well and my DMs are open for you whenever