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Knowing When You Need a Binge and Purge Treatment Program

The binge and purge cycle impacts people of all ages and backgrounds. Knowing when you need help is the first step in recovery. 

But, how do you know if you need a binge and purge treatment program

What is Binging and Purging?

Binging is when a person eats to excess. Purging is when a person goes to extremes to rid themselves of calories. Some people do both, while others do just one. Binging and purging are types of disordered eating.

Disordered eating is a term used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviors. Eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating fall under this umbrella term. 

What Causes Binging and Purging?

The exact cause of disordered eating is not clear. We know that sociocultural, biological, and psychological factors play a crucial role in its development. 

Some common causes of disordered eating include:

  • Genetics. People who have family members with eating disorders are more likely to develop them as well.
  • Personality. People with traits like neuroticism, perfectionism, or impulsivity are more likely to develop disordered eating.
  • Environment. Eating disorders are more likely to develop in people whose community or environment emphasizes thinness as a physical ideal.

People used disordered eating as a way to cope with a situation they’re trying to manage. The behavior becomes a disorder when it starts to negatively impact the person’s life.

Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

Binging is when a person eats to excessive fullness. The person eats a large amount of food in a short time, and feels a loss of control over eating. They probably binge in private, preferring that others are unaware of how much they consume. They hide because of the shame and guilt they feel as a result of their behavior.

People with binge eating disorder may gain weight quickly because of their food consumption. They also tend to feel stress, shame, or guilt surrounding their eating habits. These feelings often cause them to eat in secret. These feelings may lead to depression or thoughts of suicide.

The Long-term Effects of Binge Eating Disorder

The cycle of overeating involved in binging can have long-term consequences.

The long-term effects of binge eating disorder include:

  • Emotional Issues. The emotions that cause disordered eating, paired with the shame and guilt related to the disorder, can lead to additional mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Gastrointestinal Concerns. Following a binging episode, a person may feel uncomfortably full or sick to their stomach. They may experience bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea. Eating large amounts of food in a short time also may result in acid reflux, cramping, heartburn, and diarrhea. Repeated consumption of large amounts of food may cause long-term effects including the stomach rupturing. Binge eating also may cause constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS results in chronic stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation.
  • Low Energy. The amount of energy the body uses to digest food after a binge may leave a person feeling low energy, sleepiness, and sluggishness.
  • Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes happens when your body can’t make or use insulin effectively. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. 
  • High Blood Pressure. Consuming foods high in fat, sugar, and cholesterol can raise your blood pressure, leading to heart problems.
  • Risk for Cardiovascular Disease. High blood pressure leads to damage to the heart vessels and clogged arteries. These changes increase a person’s likelihood of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. 
  • Sleep Problems. Sleep apnea is a sleep condition that causes your breathing to pause as you sleep. There is an increased risk for people who are overweight or obese because fat builds up in airways. This build up makes it difficult to breathe.
  • Joint Problems. People in larger bodies are more likely to have arthritis. The cartilage inside the joints can be worn away due to excessive weight, leading to osteoarthritis. This pain could happen anywhere in the body, including fingers, knees, or hips. Joint pains may lead to them being stiff with limited mobility.
  • Organ Issues. Doctors commonly link kidney diseases and fatty liver disease to chronic overeating. 
  • Fertility Challenges. Being overweight can make a woman’s periods irregular, leading to difficulties getting pregnant. Also, those who binge eat are more likely to experience health problems during their pregnancy. 
  • Weight Gain. Excessive eating can lead to extreme weight gain, which may cause a myriad of health concerns, as referenced above.

More information about our eating disorder treatment program.

Understanding Purging

Purging is when someone attempts to rid their body of calories. Bulimia is the most common purging disorder. Bulimia is when a person rids themselves of food. They may vomit, take laxatives, fast, exercise excessively, or take diuretics to eliminate calories.

People who purge have an obsession with weight, body image, and food.

Symptoms of purging may include:

  • Repeat binging 
  • Obsession with weight, body mass, and body type
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Scarring or cuts on the knuckles from trying to induce vomiting
  • Acid reflux or consistent heartburn
  • Sore or inflamed throat
  • Tooth decay
  • Electrolyte imbalances 
  • Severe dehydration

A white woman with dark hair has her hair pulled back in a bun, sitting on a turquoise couch. She has her head against her hand and is looking sad

The Long-term Effects of Purging

The elimination of calories involved in purging can have long-term health consequences.

The long-term effects of purging include:

  • Dehydration. Dehydration is often a consequence of binging and purging. When a person induces vomiting or uses laxatives, they lose more water than they consume. This dehydration can be dangerous if left untreated. 
  • Weak Muscles. Purging deprives the body of vital nutrients from food. This nutritional deficit can cause muscles to deteriorate over time, causing weakness.
  • Extreme Fatigue. Purging rids the body of the nutrition it needs to survive. It causes a person to feel weak, tired, and lethargic almost all of the time.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues. Constipation and diarrhea may result from vomiting or diuretic or laxative use. A person who frequently uses stimulant laxatives can permanently damage their colonic nerves, resulting in them always needing bowel supports for regular bowel movements.
  • Electrolyte Loss. People get natural electrolytes when they eat foods rich in calcium, phosphorus, and sodium. Failure to keep enough electrolytes can cause abdominal cramping, confusion, and even convulsions.
  • Teeth Damage. The most common form of purging is vomiting. When a person vomits, stomach acids come up. These acids can cause tooth enamel to deteriorate, leaving teeth sensitive and yellow. 
  • Weight Loss or Gain. Purging may result in a person losing so much weight that their body begins to shut down from not having the nutrients and calories it needs. Purging also can lead to weight gain, usually when it’s preceded by a binge.

How ILC Can Help

Binge eating and purging disorders are mental health disorders that can impact people of any gender or age. The repercussions of binging and purging are numerous. But you can get help for disordered eating.

If you think you or a loved one has an eating disorder, you can get help and support. 

At Integrative Life Center, we believe that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible, but that recovery usually requires the support of trained professionals. Through constant communication, the aid of psychologists, registered dietitians, and other treatment team members, we help you design a treatment plan to help you heal from your disorder. Contact us for help.


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