On the Efficacy of Self-Induced Vomiting (Purging)

A single in-lab assessment of caloric consumption, loss, and retention during binge-purge episodes in individuals with bulimia nervosa (BN) is frequently cited as evidence that purging via self-induced vomiting is an ineffective strategy for calorie disposal and weight control (Kaye, Weltzin, Hsu, McConaha, & Bolton, 1993). These findings have been widely interpreted to mean that, on average, purging  rids the body of only about half of the calories consumed, regardless of total quantity.

However, a closer examination of the study does NOT support the notion that purging is an ineffective compensatory behavior. Indeed, the findings of Kaye et al. (1993) would appear to have been both misunderstood and overgeneralized in the subsequent decades. This has important implications for therapeutic alliance in clinical practice as well as for understanding the nature of symptoms, metabolic processes, and physiological alterations in EDs.


The study included 17 individuals, all of … Continue reading →

Medical Complications of Purging in Bulimia Nervosa

Eating disorders are mental disorders with physical complications. Sometimes lots of them. I’ve blogged before about medical complications that are likely to come up in an emergency room setting, but that was a while ago. So I thought today I’d focus specifically on medical complications  that occur in bulimia nervosa (BN) as a result of purging (self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, and diuretic abuse).

These complications are particularly important because patients with BN often appear healthy and can thus more easily hide their disorder, meaning that treatment is often initiated many years after disorder onset, and the duration of BN is often long, with recovery rates far lower than they should be (in one study, the 5-year recovery rate was a little more than 50%), which means that these complications can persist for many years.

I’ll go through some of the complications of self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretic abuse, … Continue reading →