The infrequent or difficult passing of hard, dry feces is called constipation. It refers to slowing of the bowels. Usually it is harmless, but occasionally it may be a symptom of another disorder, including drug abuse (like heroin) or bulimia. In severe cases, it may be called obstipation, where the bowels are not moving at all.

The most common cause of constipation is a lack of dietary fiber. Eating more fruit and fiber-containing vegetables is the best solution for most people.


If you have been taking laxatives, especially large quantities of laxatives to purge, your body may have become dependent on laxatives. Depending on the severity, you may need to work with a physician to gradually restore proper bowel function. The problem may take many months to resolve.

Laxatives disturb the body’s natural balance. Some laxatives can cause abdominal cramps, while others can cause chemical imbalances in the blood. Lubricant laxatives like mineral oil may coat the intestines and prevent absorption of vitamins. For normal constipation, try to ride it out and gradually increase your fiber intake to avoid the problem in the future.

Medical help

If there is significant lower abdominal pain, if you do not have a bowel movement for three days or more, or the constipation lasts more than two weeks, seek medical help.

See your family physician. If you have a long history of laxative use, you need to find a doctor who knows about eating disorders (and addiction) and will help with withdrawal.

Constipation, see also: Addiction, Alcoholism, Biochemistry, Bulimia nervosa, Drugs, Edema, Exercise & activity, Metabolism, Nutrition, Obesity, Physical aspects, Purging, Unmanageability, Withdrawal.

Updated 7 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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