Eating Disorders Diagnosis Understanding the Chew and Spit Eating Disorder By Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, is a certified eating disorders expert and clinical psychologist who provides cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 09, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print TerryJ/Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Classification Causes Medical Consequences Diagnosis and Treatment Advice for Family Members Among the lesser-known and less-studied eating disorder behaviors is chewing and spitting. This behavior consists of chewing a highly palatable and energy-dense food and spitting it out instead of swallowing it. The intent of chewing and spitting is to enjoy food’s flavor without ingesting calories. Chewing and spitting is similar to bingeing because it involves larger than intended quantities of high-calorie foods. It also shares elements of restrictive eating because the food is not actually consumed. Chewing and Spitting in the DSM-5 Initially, spitting was believed to be an alternative to purging. Therefore, the behavior was primarily studied in individuals with bulimia nervosa. In the prior version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), chewing and spitting was listed as a potential symptom of eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). The diagnosis of EDNOS was replaced with the category of other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED) in the DSM-5. However, the DSM-5 does not list chewing and spitting under any single disorder because this behavior may occur across other eating disorder diagnoses. Chewing and spitting can be seen in patients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or other specified eating disorders. Potential Causes Eating disorders can impact people from all different walks of life. Research shows that those with a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop them, but genetics don't always play a role. A preoccupation with body image and a desire for control are commonly associated with eating disorders, like chewing and spitting. Other mental disorders like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or drug abuse may also accompany disordered eating habits, along with more severe symptoms—including suicidal ideation. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Medical Consequences While it might seem like a relatively benign habit when compared to other disordered behaviors like vomiting, the physical consequences of chewing and spitting can be serious. Some of the health effects of chewing and spitting include: Dental problems: Cavities and gum disease result when teeth are exposed to frequent contact with sugary foods.Stomach issues: The production of stomach acid is triggered by chewing but then no food is made available for digestion. This could potentially lead to ulcers or acid reflux.Weight gain: This is a surprising side-effect of chewing and spitting behavior which researchers suspect relates to overeating later in the day. Patients should see a medical doctor and a dentist to discuss potential treatment options for gastrointestinal, hormonal, and dental issues. Proper mental health support can help reduce further physical and emotional damage. Diagnosis and Treatment The shame and stigma associated with chewing and spitting can be a barrier to seeking treatment. As with other eating disorders, psychotherapy and nutritional counseling can help. Diagnosing an eating disorder requires a health professional to assess the following factors: Body image questions, including thoughts and perceptions about food and other possible eating disorder symptoms (like bingeing or misuse of laxatives)Current eating habits, including the quantity and variety of foods eaten and meal patternsMedical history, including any substance abuse, mental health issues, current medications, and weight changesOther lifestyle factors, including exercise habits, menstrual cycle, and stress levels Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be used to address eating disorders including chewing and spitting. Components may include acknowledgment of feelings of shame, challenging of dietary rules, management of emotional distress, and practice of increased flexibility. The CBT strategies that are used to address chewing and spitting behaviors are similar to those used with other eating disorders. The strategies are focused on challenging a person's irrational thoughts involving fear of food, fear of weight gain, and body image concerns. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders Advice for Family Members If a loved one is displays signs of an eating disorder, it's helpful to understand which behaviors they are engaging in. You may notice certain symptoms such as: Discolored or stained teethExcessive and rigid exercise behaviorsFear of eating in public or with othersPreoccupation with weight and dietingUnusual disappearance of food from the pantryWearing baggy clothes to hide appearanceWeight changes Chewing and spitting may be a symptom of a larger eating disorder. Speak to your loved one about your concerns and encourage them to accept help from a qualified professional. Avoid providing criticism or judgment, and instead, focus on showing them how much you care about their well-being. Tips for Difficult-to-Break Habits Related to Eating Disorders A Word From Verywell Chewing and spitting may not seem like a big deal, but it's a sign of having a dysfunctional relationship with food. If you or someone you care about is chewing and spitting, it's best to seek treatment before the behavior continues to progress. There are ways to find peace with food and body image. Sometimes, we just need a little extra help and support to start moving in the right direction. 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Aouad P, Hay P, Soh N, Touyz S. Chew and spit (CHSP): a systematic review. J Eat Disord. 2016;4(1):23. doi:10.1186/s40337-016-0115-1 Cleveland Clinic. Eating disorders. Bachmann S. Epidemiology of suicide and the psychiatric perspective. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(7). doi:10.3390/ijerph15071425 John Hopkins Medicine. What are the health effects of chewing and spitting out food?. National Eating Disorders Association. Other specified feeding or eating disorder. By Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, is a certified eating disorders expert and clinical psychologist who provides cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Eating Disorders Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.