It can be extremely lonely and isolating to struggle with an eating disorder, particularly one that is lesser known. Chewing and spitting disorder (CHSP) is not recognized in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), and there is little research on the disorder.
Being able to identify what you are going through and recognizing that you need help is an important first step toward recovery.
What is Chewing and Spitting Disorder?
CHSP is a disorder characterized by chewing food and then spitting it out instead of swallowing. People with CHSP commonly chew and spit foods they perceive as “bad” or forbidden. This is often minimized as a “dieting tip,” but this is actually a very serious form of disordered eating that should not be ignored.
Some of you might remember the episode of Sex and the City in which the ladies travel to Los Angeles, California. Miranda catches up with an old friend who seems happier and healthier than ever before. After meeting for dinner, she realizes it is all a façade as he is actually struggling with disordered eating, spitting each bite into his napkin after chewing.
These chewing and spitting behaviors are commonly thought to be in line with binge eating, though a recent study  indicates otherwise. Researchers explain, “Chewing and spitting was not associated with elevated bingeing. Rather, frequent chewers/spitters exhibited higher levels of restrictive eating behaviors and the behavior was more prevalent in younger patients.”
It makes sense that chewing and spitting is common with more restrictive diets since it is an ultimate form of self-denial. Even after letting yourself taste and chew the food, you do not feel deserving of the satisfaction or nourishment that comes with digesting it.
This can become pathological and highly addictive, leading to further isolation and shame. The lack of awareness surrounding this disorder can keep people from seeking help or even recognizing that they have a problem.
Physical Side Effects of Chewing and Spitting Disorder
The causes and long-term effects of CHSP are currently being studied by PhD candidate Phillip Aouad and his colleagues at University of Sydney, but some physical side effects of chewing and spitting are currently recognized.
Malnourishment is a side effect, as the body is not receiving calories and nutrients it needs through digestion. However, there can also be weight gain due to unintended calories consumed through chewing, including food that is stuck in teeth or otherwise swallowed.
When food is chewed in the mouth, it releases acid in the stomach as it prepares to digest and break down this food. Chewing and spitting means that this acid is being released into an empty stomach, often leading to stomach ulcers and related digestive problems.
Swollen salivary glands, tooth decay, cavities, and hormonal imbalances are also serious side effects of CHSP.
When to Seek Help
If you are chewing and spitting at all, we encourage you to seek help immediately. CHSP behaviors are highly addictive and can lead to serious mental and physical side effects, often co-occurring with other disordered food behaviors.
It is okay to be afraid. There is a reason you are engaging in chewing and spitting. It serves some purpose for you, as does all disordered eating. Giving up your eating disorder, however much it might be harming you, can feel terrifying when you are still in its grasp.
The time has come to make peace with yourself and food by taking that first step in your recovery. Speak with a therapist, dietitian, medical professional, coach, mentor, or anyone else in your life who will be supportive. If you are not ready to see a professional, speak with a trusted friend or family member and let them know that you need help.
Get Help Today
Chewing and spitting behaviors are not going to go away on their own, and will likely worsen over time. Speaking your truth by sharing what you are going through can start to slowly silence your disordered thoughts.
There is never a convenient time to come to terms with the fact that you need help. Waiting until after the holidays, once final exams are over, or after your cousin’s wedding will only prolong the inevitable and can make the recovery process that much more challenging.
Give yourself a chance at full recovery today.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
When did you recognize that you needed help for chewing and spitting disorder?
About the Author: Courtney Howard is the Director of Operations & Business Development at Eating Disorder Hope. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate. After obtaining her certification as a life coach, Courtney launched Lionheart Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching in 2015 and continues to be a passionate advocate for awareness and recovery.
References:: Guarda, A., Coughlin, J., Cummings, M., Marinilli, A., Haug, N., Boucher, M., & Heinberg, L. (2004). “Chewing and spitting in eating disorders and its relationship to binge eating.” Eating Behaviors, 5 (3), 231-239 DOI: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2004.01.001
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 12, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com