Purging is usually associated with eating addiction. If you think of it as an activity to offset a binge, it is easy to find parallels in other addictions. After a weekend drunk, an alcoholic may “swear off” for a few days. Gamblers may do the same thing after a huge loss. A sex addict who distributes pornography and is a child molester may get involved in an antipornography campaign. These purging activities are accompanied by fear, guilt, and attempts to control.

Purging in eating addiction is an activity to try to control caloric absorption or to offset the effect of caloric consumption. All addicts should have some familiarity with this module. to be in a position to help others in their Twelve Step programs who might be experiencing these problems. We will focus on eating addiction, but many of these ideas could apply to other addictions also.

Less Common Forms of Purging

Interestingly, the less common types of purging have gotten the most public exposure.

Vomiting food is purging, and may occur only occasionally or up to ten or more times a day. We do not call it purging if it is the occasional natural result of food poisoning or illness. Frequent involuntary Vomiting when there is no desire to get rid of the food should be evaluated by a physician and possibly also by a psychiatrist.

Many people take laxatives to eliminate that full feeling, and they may think they are avoiding calories. Some bulimics take many times the recommended dosages every day. Actually less than 15 percent of the calories are avoided by laxatives, and other drastic dangers to the body are incurred. Recovery from laxative abuse can be difficult and long term.

Diuretics are taken so the scales will go down a pound or two but are of no benefit at all in lasting weight loss. Only water loss and dehydration occur.

Enemas are sometimes used to provide a feeling of purging, but are of no benefit in avoiding the consequences of food consumed.

Oral expulsion syndrome is where food is chewed and then spit out. There are records of individuals whose eating addiction consisted primarily of this behavior, and others who reported using it at times. One bulimic who binged and purged reported that at times she would sit at a desk and eat candy bars, then spit them into a styrofoam cup in her desk drawer to be disposed of later.

Ruminating is vomiting up a small amount of food, chewing it, and then swallowing it again. It has been reported by some food addicts, but there is not enough information about it yet to know just where it fits -- in the eating addiction area, as a psychiatric problem, or as a physical/medical phenomenon.

Common Forms of Purging

Some of the more common means of purging have not received much attention by the press.

Fasting is a common type of purging to offset the effect of excess food consumed. Eating very little or no food at one or more meals is a fasting purge, although to be considered part of bulimia it should be part of a common pattern rather than just occasionally or for religious or other purposes.

Excessive exercising to burn off calories is a common type of purge. We even see Hollywood stars advocating this type of activity “When you’ve been bad.” It can take up many hours each day and be extremely detrimental to relationships, careers, peace of mind, and even health. It may be combined with vomiting or starving.

Extreme starvation diets are common in the obese. When you are used to several thousand calories each day, even a 1,200-calorie diet is an extreme starvation diet. Obsession about food and weight loss begins to appear similar to anorexic mentality, and over time it can be very destructive as a purging technique.


Purging in any addiction perpetuates the disease. It can result in biochemical changes that become addictive themselves. The solution is Step One and the recovery program.

Purging, see also: Abstinence, Addiction, Binge history, Bingeing, Body image, Bulimia nervosa, Crisis, Edema, Exercise & activity, Moodifiers, Progression, Stinking thinking, Unmanageability, Weight, Withdrawal.

Updated 7 Sep 2015


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