beat · eating disorders · laxative abuse · mental health · personal

Laxative abuse

Potentially triggering for eating disorders.

When most people think of eating disorders, they think about someone starving themselves, making themselves sick and being really thin. However, eating disorders are a lot more complex than this. A further issue that is becoming more common in eating disorders is the use of laxatives.

Many of you might think that using laxatives seems a bit strange so why do people with eating disorders do this? Some people think that it will help them lose weight. For me, I enjoyed the empty feeling that taking laxatives gave me. I personally could never make myself vomit. But, laxatives were easy to get and although I knew that they did not stop me from absorbing calories, that feeling of emptiness was good for me. Laxatives help get rid of any retained water and that lowers the number on the scale. For someone suffering with an eating disorder, that is perceived as a great thing.

My laxative abuse started off by taking the recommended dose whenever I felt bloated. However, it soon got out of control. My body got used to the laxatives so I started taking more and more often. It was one of the hardest parts of my recovery. My body was used to being aided like this. It did not help that I was then diagnosed with IBS. When my IBS causes horrible constipation, I cannot take laxatives to help it. When you stop taking laxatives, you tend to get bloated and the eating disorder voices in your head convince you that this translates as getting fat/putting on weight. It takes a lot of strength to stop abusing laxatives, to recognise that this bloating is temporary and that your body can live without them.

So this all sounds really difficult and horrible, right? Yes but I am one of many examples that it is possible to stop abusing laxatives. Here’s some advice:

  • Remember that laxatives do not make you lose actual weight. They simply dehydrate your body which sometimes resembles losing weight.
  • Laxatives can cause dehydration, bloating, electrolyte imbalances and a variety of health problems. Remember that recovery is about taking care of your health.
  • Get rid of any laxatives you have in the house.
  • Talk to your doctor or a friend, get some support.
  • Take each day as it comes and be proud of your progress, do not beat yourself up if you slip up at all.
  • Depending on how long you have been abusing them, you may have to reduce them gradually. Assess the best way for you to stop this, everyone is different.
  • Drink lots of water and eat lots of fibre, it will eventually stop the bloating and stop your body’s reliance on laxatives.

Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity, is currently seeking to address the problem of laxative abuse. They are calling for the sale of laxatives to be better regulated. This is so important. If laxatives are more difficult to access then less people will have the chance to take them. Take a look at what Beat is aiming for.

Currently MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) claim that they recognise the problem but do not believe that sales restrictions would be appropriate. I disagree. If laxatives were not so easily obtainable, if I could not buy lots of them at the age of 14 wherever I wanted, if I had to ask for them from behind the counter, if they were clearly not a weight loss aid… well, I really think that I might not have abused laxatives so readily and I think that’s the case for many eating disorder sufferers. Something needs to be done because this growing trend is scary and dangerous.

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