Quote from motorcycle mama
I know a woman in her early 30's who is quite a bit overweight. After some recent bowel irregularity, she took enemas for a few days. Noticing it made her lose weight, she started a regimen of spending about 30 minutes every night in her bathroom with an enema bag. She has lost about 15 pounds since this enema thing so she thinks this weight loss thing is a "plus." She claims she has suffered off and on from constipation all her life and now this is about the only way she can go. When she isn't taking enemas she is taking laxatives, drank a whole bottle of magnesium sulfate and nearly gagged on it, it made her sick and she swore she would never go "that" route again. She says the fiber supplements don't really help and she hates eating gritty bran cereal...
I'm not sure she is really doing this to lose weight as much as she is just obsessed with her bowels. She has confided she is absolutely mortified at the thought of being bloated and stopped up. She says her cousin once became so constipated she started vomiting feces.
Anyway, how far does it go before it is more than a matter of just being anal?
And I'm sorry if this grosses anyone out, but she is not satisfied unless she just goes and goes and goes...
Oh, dear. I hope you meant milk of mag and not mag sulfate.
Besides that, she may be coming close to an "addiction" to laxatives and enemas. This kind of behavior often shows up with eating disorder patients but can be present by itself.
As is also true with eating disorder patients, the presenting problem is not the primary issue, but because it's so alarming, that is where the attention goes. The real issue is that the person feels out of control in other parts of her life. Then, when she stumbles onto something--anything--that gives her a sense of power, she runs headlong into it, telling herself that if she can only master this one piece of her life, she will be in control again.
Unfortunately, these substitute behaviors take on a life of their own. They become addictive in nature because they supply a high followed by guilt followed by fear followed by craving followed by the behavior followed by a high, and so on, cycle after cycle, until compulsion completely replaces choice and family and friends are up in arms.
The more you focus on the elimination behaviors, the more entrenched your friend is likely to become. What you can do is learn all you can about these control-related issues and try to focus on helping your friend meet the real needs in her life. Give her information (about electrolyte imbalances and laxative dependency, etc.) in a matter-of-fact manner, and remove the emotional tension between you.
I used to work with anorexic/bulimic adolescents in a very good program. When they were admitted, they and their parents were so locked into an eating/not eating tug-of-war, that nothing else could be seen or worked on.The girls were put on an eating plan, and some attention was paid to compliance, but the main focus was shifted to family dynamics and other social/emotional issues.
As the girls dealt with the real problems, their eating or not eating took on less importance. The more control they began to feel in other areas, the less they needed to control every molecule of ingestion and/or elimination.
Learn what you can, and encourage your friend to learn as well. She is lucky to have someone who cares about her.