More threads by Cat Dancer

Research Defines New Eating Disorder
New York, Sept. 21, 2007

Researchers in the field of eating disorders have defined a new disorder: purging disorder.

People, most of whom are women, have suffered from it for years, but doctors are just starting to recognize the disorder. University of Iowa professor Pamela Keel led a new study on it and appeared on The Early Show to explain her research.

How is purging disorder different from anorexia or bulimia? "With anorexia nervosa, it's a self-starvation syndrome so women are under weight. Whereas women with purging disorder have a normal weight. Women (with) bulimia have large eating episodes for which they compensate. Women with purging disorder are vomiting even after a small amount of food," Keel said.

And because the amounts are small, the disorder is difficult to detect. "Yes, because the outward signs of the illness are not obvious," said Keel. "They're not obviously underweight and there's no obvious problem in their eating patterns."

Who has purging disorder? We asked Keel to describe the average purger.

"Like any eating disorder, they are concerned with weight and shape," she said. "They're concerned with rules about what they should eat and when she should eat. They become very concerned when they eat something they think is going to make them gain weight. However, unlike women without eating disorders and unlike women with bulimia nervosa, they report feeling very, very full after eating an amount of food that other people find acceptable."

Keel said that when word first spread about her research, she got a ton of e-mail.

"A lot of the e-mails were along the lines of 'That's me' and 'Thank you for doing this work, please continue doing this work.' Also, a lot of e-mails expressing having experienced this for years of their lives, having sought help, but never really finding a treatment that seemed to fit the condition they actually had," she said.

The disorder is dangerous, said Keel. "It's associated with electrolyte imbalances that can influence heart and kidney function, dehydration. It can also cause incredible problems with dental decay."

Though there is no "cure" for the disorder, Keel said that in the future "the main thing we need to do is really start focusing on what is contributing to the propensity to purge among these women.

"Most of the research that we've done on bulimia nervosa, we understand that the immediate trigger is binge-eating episodes. Women who have purging disorder, we don't have any clues what contributes to the eating disorder."


i do not agree it is 'new' or even it's own disorder.

why do they have to keep coming up with subcategories for disorders? it really upsets me.

any eating disorder, should be treated the same.

it doesn't matter if a person meets the criteria or not..they do the same damage.

as for a 'purging' disorder...i was anorexic and then i began purging (no binging involved).

so..from my understanding, that would be called purging anorexia...a subtype of anorexia, except that i also didn't meet all criteria's for anorexia, so i was diagnosed with atypical anorexia at one point...but the purging wasn't even a part of the diagnosis ever.

my bmi was 'anorexic'

so would that be...just..EDNOS?

what makes it any 'less' damaging than being clinically anorexic or bulimic..? nothing, in my opinion.

it is confusing, and i don't think it's really fair to keep coming up with 'new' disorders when they already exist...the dr.'s 'just' figured it all out..(a little late though)

does that all make sense?

i think there needs to be more focus on the person with any type of eating issue, and focus less on what category they fit under.

sorry for rambling..i realize you didn't write the article..but..all these researchers and doctors irritate me sometimes with their theories and 'break throughs'.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
I get what you're saying. However, another way of looking at it is that people are starting to accept that not all people with the same diagnosis are the same. Does that mean we need more diagnoses? Probably not. But in the end it's the treatment you receive and whether it's appropriate to and effective for your symptoms that matters, whatever someone chooses to label it.
I've struggled with eating disorders for 25 years now, since I was about 13, and when I was first diagnosed, the hospital criteria was if you ever purged you were bulimic so things change, along with treatment. I was glad to read this article as it made so much sense to me. I could relate and it made me feel less alone.

Definitely the most important thing is the treatment of the eating disorder though. I would think though the diagnosis does affect the treatment. So that's why it seems the proper diagnosis would be important.
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