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What Is Purging Disorder?

Learn the facts about purging disorder from Allegra Broft, M.D. in this Howcast video about eating disorders.


So what is Purging disorder? First thing to know Purging disorder is not currently recognized as an official diagnosis within psychiatry. So, for example, in the diagnostic manual for mental health disorders, the DSM, the manual that a lot of mental health professionals use in the United States, Purging disorder is not listed as its own separate diagnosis. It's currently under a diagnosis known as EDNOS, or eating disorder not otherwise specified.

A lot of features of Purging disorder probably resemble some things that you see going on in Bulimia nervosa, which is its own official diagnosis. Purging disorder basically means the repetitive use of compensatory behaviors for eating with the intention of trying to conserve calories or not keep calories in the body. So that could be use of vomiting, very typically, but also laxative use. It could be repetitive use of diet pills. It could be use of water pills or diuretics, things that make you urinate with an effort towards, you know, losing water weight. And it can even be repetitive use of excessive exercise to compensate for calories.

Purging disorder is another diagnosis within in the eating disorder spectrum that we're still trying to understand, that we're still trying to get more research on. We do know a little bit about treatment for Purging disorder. Some medications have been evaluated in Purging disorder and may be a benefit similar to Bulimia nervosa, although those trials are really in their infancy.

Psychotherapies similar to those used in Bulimia nervosa, may be of help as well, although we still need more research and better trials to really know definitively what the best treatment scientifically are for Purging disorder.

Purging disorder, just like Bulimia nervosa can have a lot of very dangerous medical consequences. So things like serum disturbances, lowering of electrolytes like potassium can happen in Purging disorder which can cause serious medical problems. So Purging disorder, like all the other eating disorders is not something to be taken lightly, is not an appropriate method for compensating for calories ingested, and really can lead to medical consequences and should be under a doctor's supervision.

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