Bulimia Nervosa is when someone with an eating disorder makes themselves vomit in order to lose weight, or turns to other methods of purging following a bingeing episode. The DSM-V looks at the full picture of bulimia nervosa as many purging behaviors like medications, excessive exercise, fasting, and laxatives. People take laxatives thinking they will lose a significant amount of weight when you are really causing a lot of damage to the body.
Those with an eating disorder take laxatives as an attempt to lose weight, get rid of unwanted calories, and to feel thin. People believe that laxatives will make the food and calories rush out through the gut and bowels before being absorbed. The truth is that laxatives target the large intestine so when food passes through the small intestine, nutrients from the food are already absorbed. The only significant loss it causes is water, electrolytes, minerals, and indigestible fibers and wastes from the colon. This weight loss is only temporary and will come back once you rehydrate yourself.
There are a lot of dangerous consequences that come with being a chronic laxative addict such as the risk of dehydration which can damage your organs and cause death. If the electrolytes are affected such as sodium and potassium, that can lead to confusion, low blood pressure, tachycardia, muscle weakness, trembling, sore joints, and sunken eyes. Edema can also occur where there is a buildup of fluid swelling and causes tight skin, decreases joint flexibility and blood circulation, and difficulty walking. There could be blood in stools which result in anemia. Reflex constipation can also occur as the bowel is not able to function. Laxatives can also causes permanent damage such as paralysis of the muscles that is used in digestion, resulting in removing part or all of the colon and being dependent of a colostomy bag. Your risk of colon cancer can also be increased.
Some people with an eating disorder feel ashamed to tell someone. It is important to seek medical treatment before withdrawal symptoms occur which can last about three weeks. A medical doctor can help you with physical symptoms that have occurred from laxatives as well as find any underlying disorders that led you to your addiction. You should also not look to quick fixes for weight loss but to drink water, exercise, and eat a healthy diet to get the nutrients your body needs. Do not wait for the worst to happen to seek help.
Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in County Louth, near Dublin was founded in 1988 as a residential rehabilitation hospital treating people suffering from drug and alcohol purposes. Smarmore Castle believes eating disorders is an illness whereby a problematic relationship with food has developed commonly alongside other traits, such as negative body image, perfectionism, impulsivity and low self-esteem. Smarmore Castle can help through CBT-BN for Bulimia Nervosa, CBT-BED for Binge Eating Disorder and Interpersonal Psychotherapy and/or Family Therapy for Anorexia Nervosa. For more information, please call 041-214-5111. For those who live out of the country, the international number is 00353-41-214-5111.
Last updated & clinically assessed 26 March, 2021