Laxative Abuse

Laxative abuse refers to the excessive and chronic use of laxatives, which are substances designed to stimulate bowel movements and relieve constipation. However, when used inappropriately or in excess, laxatives can have harmful effects on the body.

Laxative Abuse

Laxative abuse is often associated with individuals who have eating disorders, particularly bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. People with these disorders may misuse laxatives as a means to control weight, compensate for binge eating episodes, or purge food from their bodies.


Laxative abuse can lead to a range of negative health consequences. Firstly, it can disrupt the natural digestive process and cause dependency on laxatives for bowel movements. Over time, the body may become less responsive to the effects of laxatives, leading to the need for higher doses or stronger laxatives to achieve the desired effect.


Additionally, frequent laxative use can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Laxatives work by drawing water into the intestines to soften the stool, which can result in excessive fluid loss if used excessively. This can lead to dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities (such as low potassium levels), and imbalances in the body’s mineral and electrolyte levels.


Other potential complications of laxative abuse include:


  1. Chronic constipation: Paradoxically, prolonged laxative abuse can actually lead to chronic constipation. The intestines may become reliant on laxatives to produce bowel movements, making it difficult for the body to function naturally without them.


  1. Intestinal damage: The chronic use of laxatives can damage the intestines and disrupt their normal functioning. This can include inflammation, irritation, or even structural damage to the intestinal lining.


  1. Malnutrition: Laxative abuse can interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food, leading to malnutrition and deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals.


  1. Dependence and addiction: Frequent use of laxatives can lead to a psychological and physical dependence on them. Individuals may experience anxiety or fear about not being able to have a bowel movement without using laxatives.


It is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with laxative abuse. Treatment typically involves addressing the underlying eating disorder or psychological issues, as well as providing education on healthy bowel habits and gradually reducing laxative use under medical supervision.

Talk to Us About Eating Disorder Treatment

At Brighten Bay, we have the experience, expertise, and understanding to treat individuals with EDs and any other co-occurring conditions. Our research-backed program is focused on giving individuals ownership of their recovery as we equip them to thrive, both now and in the future. We also provide resources for families to heal and support their loved ones on the journey to healing. If you or a loved one are suffering from binge eating disorder, get in touch with us today to learn more about how to get started.