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Chewing and Spitting to Deal With Stress

By December 7, 2012

I have begun chewing and spitting one or two times per day to relieve stress. I don’t want to become scary skinny – if I continue to chew and spit out all of my food, will I start to lose too much weight? – Leslie

Dear Leslie,

We know that eating disorders are about stress in a person’s life. You say you are chewing and spitting to deal with the stress in your life. That is a good insight. Many people who struggle with this don’t realize why they are doing it.

Chewing and spitting IS an eating disorder behavior. Over time, there can be medical problems. Even though the absorption of nutrients and energy starts in the mouth, you could still drop below a healthy weight. You may also experience dental decay and enlargement of the parotid glands (mumps glands). Over time, malnutrition will develop as well as bowel problems.

The bigger problem is what this means to you emotionally and how it affects your life and your relationships. Most people I have known who have struggled with this behavior say they feel “weird” and are ashamed of what they are doing. This begins to impact their relationships and their respect for themselves. I would strongly encourage you to seek counseling to deal with the stressors in your life. Tell your therapist about the chewing and spitting. This information can help them know better how to help you.

I wish you the best,

Brenda K. Woods, MD, FAAFP