Individuals may experience intense internal or external pressure to maintain a certain body weight or shape. Unrealistic standards or an unhealthy body image may cause eating disorders (EDs) like purging disorder (PD). According to Current Opinion in Psychiatry, “Purging disorder may occupy a space that falls between anorexia and bulimia nervosa, making it ‘not quite’ anorexia and ‘not quite’ bulimia and difficult to reliably distinguish from each.” Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses comprehensive assessments and screening tools to ensure an accurate diagnosis and treatment. The care team is certified to treat primary EDs, including PD.

What Is Purging Disorder?

The symptoms of purging disorder overlap with bulimia nervosa and other forms of disordered eating. According to the previously mentioned article by Current Opinion in Psychiatry, “According to the DSM-5, purging disorder (PD) is characterized by recurrent purging in the absence of binge eating in individuals who are not underweight.”

The risk factors for developing PD include: 

  • Age
  • Gender 
  • Genetics
  • Family history of EDs or mental health disorders
  • Trauma-related to food, eating, or body image
  • Personal history of EDs
  • Sexual orientation
  • Chronic or acute stress

Although people diagnosed with PD are generally not considered underweight, the condition does share similarities with anorexia nervosa. Often, PD is caused by a fear of gaining weight or losing a specific body shape. LGBTQIA+ individuals have a higher risk of developing PD.

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Signs and Symptoms of Purging Disorder

The warning signs of EDs, like purging disorder, may look different depending on an individual’s age, gender, and culture. However, some of the most common signs and symptoms of the purging disorder include:

  • Low self-esteem connected to body image or weight
  • Purging behaviors, including self-induced vomiting, diuretics, laxatives, excessive exercise, or fasting 
  • Making excuses to avoid meals
  • Eating only a small amount during meals

Purging disorder shares a lot of the same warning signs as bulimia nervosa. However, there are no bingeing behaviors or loss of control when eating. Instead, the primary focus of PD is losing weight through various forms of purging.

Potential Health Side Effects of Purging Disorder

Purging disorder can cause mild to severe health issues depending on the method a person uses to purge. The side effects may be temporary or long-lasting. Clinicians use comprehensive assessments and testing to diagnose and treat any co-occurring health issues caused by chronic purging. Below are brief examples of some short and long-term health side effects of PD.

Short-Term Health Side Effects

Individuals who have only been purging for several weeks or months may experience the following:

  • Effects of dehydration, including migraines, dizziness, and circulation issues
  • Sore throat
  • Chest pain
  • Acid reflux
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Short-term side effects often cause pain and discomfort. If left untreated, PD has the potential to cause severe and long-lasting physical health issues.

Long-Term Health Side Effects

Chronic purging may cause long-term or permanent side effects, including:

  • Arrhythmia and other cardiovascular issues
  • Low blood potassium levels
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Femoral or hiatal hernia

Individuals who self-induced vomiting on a regular basis increase the risk of heart failure and death. In addition, self-induced vomiting also causes damage to internal structures. According to the International Journal of Eating Disorders, “The repeated exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid causes irritation and/or damage to the mucosal wall lining.”

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Our deeply-caring staff and the surrounding natural beauty offer an unparalleled healing experience.

Treatment Options at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses personalized treatment plans to address EDs and co-occurring disorders. Clients must address the root cause of their condition before they can fully heal and move forward in their lives. The care team collaborates closely with clients and their families to ensure the best outcomes.

Some of the evidence-based and alternative holistic treatments and services offered include:

  • Experiential therapy
  • Nutrition therapy and education
  • Art therapy
  • Personal development
  • Nature immersion
  • Traditional Hawaiian therapy: Ho’oponopono
  • Redefining self-narrative
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Bodywork/Energy work
  • Massage therapy
  • Person-centered therapy
  • Trauma-informed therapy

Clinicians use integrative care to ensure programs are tailored to each client’s unique needs and preferences. Intuitive eating is used alongside nutritional coaching, psychotherapy, and peer support to help clients create a healthier connection with food and eating during treatment.

How to Help a Loved One With Purging Disorder

The clinical team at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab provides families and friends with information on how to help loved ones struggling with eating disorders, including PD. Adolescents and young adults are more likely to experience EDs, making it essential for friends and family to intervene and provide access to treatments. According to Behavioral Sciences, “Eating disorders in adolescence are among the most important public health problems in the world, and they affect a predominantly female population of adolescent girls and young women, from 13 to 25/30 years of age.”

Friends and family members help loved ones with purging disorder by doing the following:

  • Listening and providing emotional support
  • Providing information on treatment programs and resources
  • Offering practical support to help them attend treatment
  • Not pressuring them to eat and reducing stress during meals

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab offers interventions and other services to ensure friends and family have the tools they need to help loved ones with EDs. Treatment ensures clients and their families have the resources and skills to heal and successfully manage PD.