Are You Considering How To Make Yourself Throw Up?
Updated November 07, 2019
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Vomiting is an uncomfortable topic for most people. Nobody likes to do it-or think about it. But because forcing yourself to throw up can indicate an eating disorder, it's important to talk about. There are specific circumstances where vomiting may be necessary, but those who struggle with eating disorders and controlling their weight require careful attention from mental health professionals. If you are worried about a medical emergency, such as poison or too much medicine ingested, you should call your doctor or a poison control center right away. They can give you some ideas on what to try to rid your body of a potential toxin without the anxiety of having to solve this problem on your own.
What Causes a Person to Want to Throw Up?
It's doubtful that anyone enjoys the act of vomiting, however, certain thought processes compel some people to do so. One of the most common reasons a person may feel the need to vomit is the desire to control how they look. This is a primary cause of many eating disorders. For example, if a person feels they're overweight and has a negative self-image, they may attempt to rectify this by purging their food.
Along with being a chronic mental health concern, eating disorders can cause severe physical health problems, and in many cases, it can cause a person to, ironically, gain weight. We'll discuss why later. Sometimes, eating disorders can even be fatal, but fortunately, with the right support and treatment, this outcome is entirely preventable.
Is It Ever Healthy to Force Yourself to Throw Up?
There are certain instances where it may be wise to induce vomiting, like if you've eaten something toxic, or maybe if you drank too much. In these cases, your body may vomit automatically. Some people will overeat to the point of making themselves sick but not as far as vomiting. Maybe you accidentally took the wrong medication. Whatever the reason, making yourself throw up without an order from a doctor or poison control is not usually a good idea. You should contact your doctor immediately if you're trying to induce vomiting due to something you ate. They will walk you through the proper, medically safe steps.
Questions Your Doctor May Ask
If you are on the phone with your doctor in one of these instances, or if you have called about someone else, the physician may ask:
- What did you eat or drink?
- How much did you eat or drink?
- When did it happen?
- How are you feeling right now?
- Why did you eat or drink?
- Has this happened before?
- What do you expect vomiting to do for you?
- Are you trying to throw up to lose weight?
How to Safely Throw Up
If your doctor recommends inducing vomiting, there are several safe methods:
- Emetics - You can try an ipecac to make you throw up. Follow the instructions on the bottle, but be exact because too much can be fatal. Your doctor may suggest some other substances that can induce vomiting.
- Toothbrush - Use your toothbrush to push on the back of your tongue until you feel the gag reflex.
- Finger - Rather than a toothbrush, you can use your finger, but be careful not to scratch yourself with your fingernails.
- Mustard Mix - You can mix one tablespoon of plain yellow mustard with six to eight ounces of warm water, and drink it down in one big gulp. This may take up to 30 minutes to work, and it doesn't work for everyone.
- Rotten Odors - Sometimes just smelling something awful such as rotten food or a smelly trash can will make you throw up.
- Visual Help - Watch a video of someone else throwing up. Some people are able to vomit just by watching someone else do it.
The safest thing to do is to follow your doctor's orders, including when to seek help if your efforts fail.
Vomiting to Lose Weight: A Different Issue
There are medical reasons a professional might suggest induced vomiting, but there are psychological reasons why some feel the need to do so. Some doctors will assess for this when asking someone about their motivations for wanting to vomit.
You may be considering, or have considered, making yourself vomit because you're hoping it will help control your weight after eating a quantity of food you regret.
If you're trying to make yourself throw up to lose weight, it's recommended you speak to your doctor or a mental health professional. Many people who induce vomiting develop a pattern of compulsive behavior called bulimia nervosa. People with this condition engage in episodes of overeating called binging, and then afterward engage in purging behavior. Unfortunately, over time, the stress of these actions on the body can cause adverse physical and emotional effects, and it won't lead to any long-term weight loss.
Your body will only get rid of half of the calories you consume, so if you're purging and vomiting, you'll end up gaining weight in the long run. Bulimia nervosa also slows your metabolism, causing your body to store the calories, leading to weight gain. In addition, stomach acid can cause damage to your teeth. It could even lead to an electrolyte imbalance and cause a heart attack or stroke. There can be other negative health consequences, such as damage to your esophagus, sores on your hands, and other digestive issues.
The DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists the symptoms of bulimia nervosa as follows:
- Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within a two hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
- Lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that you cannot stop eating, or control what or how much you are eating).
- Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise.
- The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for three months.
- Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
- Binging or purging does not occur exclusively during episodes of behavior that would be common in those with anorexia nervosa.
If you often feel you have to make yourself throw up after eating, or if you engage in episodes of binge-eating with other types of purging, talking to a mental health professional can help you get to the root of this behavior and change it. Working with someone who understands that this behavior is more than about food can help you create a healthier relationship with eating, increased body positivity, and a long-term solution to your troubles. It can be hard at first to think about reaching out about this struggle, but mental health professionals will listen without judgment or bias.
How BetterHelp Can Help
If you don't know where to start looking for a licensed therapist, or if you're concerned about seeing someone face-to-face, consider an online counseling platform such as BetterHelp.com.
BetterHelp has therapists that specialize in eating disorders such as bulimia, and they're ready to speak to you, or chat with you in the comfort of your own home. The counseling services are confidential and affordable. Counseling can help you find that you have the power to change this cycle and feel more in control of your weight, your decisions, and your emotions. Read some of the reviews in the next section to see how others found relief for similar issues with BetterHelp's online services.
"Ingrid has been incredible! She is so supportive and encouraging of my healthy behaviors and really helps me problem solve when I have a particular problem. I never feel judged, it's always a safe space to talk about how I'm feeling. Thanks, Ingrid, it's fantastic to have the extra support I need right now."
"In the short time that I've talked with her, I've found Sirena to be warm, receptive, and understanding of my needs and goals with therapy. She listens with attention and care to my issues of the moment and always seeks the best path to resolve those issues for me in a prompt, healthy and meaningful way."
There are times when self-induced vomiting is understandable and may even help you (only in the case that you've spoken with a medical professional), but in other situations it can point to an eating disorder. If you have one, it doesn't need to be permanent. Hopefully, by reading this article, you've learned how you can find help and put an end to throwing up or having thoughts of doing so. Take the first step to a truly healthy and fulfilling life today.