Non-Purging Bulimia vs. Purging Bulimia: Differentiating These Two Sub-Types

Most descriptions and media representations of bulimia nervosa fixate on binge eating and purging, usually via self-induced vomiting. Although partially accurate, these narrow representations are not indicative of the full range of symptoms and compulsions experienced by people with bulimia nervosa. In this article, we want to talk about one of the lesser-known subtypes of bulimia nervosa: non-purging bulimia.

Purging Bulimia vs Non-Purging Bulimia

The central difference between purging bulimia and non-purging bulimia is the method a person uses to expel or compensate for the calories they just consumed. For people with purging bulimia, the most common methods are self-induced vomiting, diuretics, enemas, or the misuse of laxatives. For the most part, people with non-purging bulimia tend to use less invasive methods, including extreme over-exercising and severe fasting.

How Many People Have Non-Purging Bulimia?

Unfortunately, this remains a very difficult question to answer. Although existing research remains confined to small sample sizes, a recent study in Finland found that 0.4 percent of the population-based survey group suffered from non-purging bulimia.

Dangers of Non-Purging Bulimia

Overtraining injuries: While regular exercise is a healthy habit, excessive overtraining can wreak havoc on your body. When you over train, you’re not giving your body enough time to repair any muscle, tendon, or ligament damage incurred during training. Without recovery time, these minor tears and strains will eventually lead to one or more severe overtraining injuries.

Cyclical binging: A common sign of non-purging bulimia is compulsive fasting in the days following a binging episode. Similar to exercise, fasting can be a healthy practice if it is coupled with sustainable eating habits. Unfortunately, the type of fasting employed by people with non-purging bulimia is far from sustainable. Unsurprisingly, people who compulsively fast following a binging episode soon find themselves suffering from intense cravings and anxiety, two feelings that inevitably kick start another cycle of binging.

Energy deprivation: Over-exercising and fasting are effective ways to burn post-binge calories. However, once the initial calories from the binging episode have been expended, the body will enter a state of energy deprivation. The immediate effects of depriving your body of energy will vary considerably depending on a person’s body weight, their genetic composition, and the length and severity of the deprivation period.

Nutrient depletion: By depriving your body of food, you are also depriving it of nutrients. Sustained nutrient depletion can lead to the development of many dangerous side effects, including loss of libido, irregular blood sugar levels, loss of hair, and imbalanced hormone production.

Sources: Science of Eating Disorders, National Institutes of Health, My Med

Photo: Pixabay

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