Addiction And Eating Disorders

Addiction And Eating Disorders

It was previously thought that eating disorders and addiction are separate and distinct conditions. However, there is a growing number of cases that prove a connection between the two. A study conducted by the Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Use Disorder (CASA) revealed that at least one-half of the people with eating disorders also abuse alcohol or drugs. Meanwhile, 35 percent of those suffering from drug abuse is also battling eating disorder while the general population’s statistics is only pegged at 3 percent.

*Disclaimer* At Monarch Shores we do not treat eating disorders.

The Basics of Eating Disorders

Given the correlation between eating disorders and addiction, knowing more information about the former is critical.

It is important to emphasize though that everyone needs to eat. The body needs nourishment from food for it to function properly. Dramatically changing the way one eats can pave way for eating disorders to happen.

Eating disorders come in various types, which includes:

  • Bulimia – A kind which makes use of purging to limit one’s weight. Use of laxatives, vomiting, or both are common among those with this kind of disorder as a way of making sure that the calories in the food are not ingested by the body.
  • Anorexia – This is self-imposed starvation by not eating regular meals on their supposed regular schedule. People with this disorder tend to only eat foods that contain low calories like celery and apple or they several skip meals.
  • Compulsive eating – People suffering from this condition are commonly obese as they uncontrollably eat up to the point where they are already very much full.
  • Binge eating – Like compulsive eating, this is characterized by uncontrolled eating but it comes with uncontrolled purging. Thus, those with this disorder find themselves eating too much until their stomachs hurt but would they would purge thereafter to lessen the pain they feel because of overeating.

The ANRED claims there is no simple way to explain the causes of eating disorders as there can be several factors that contributed to the condition. This explanation is true to both eating disorders and substance use disorder.

The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Addiction

The diagnostic criteria for eating disorders and addiction very much similar, such as:

  • Increase in the intensity and frequency as time progresses
  • Obsessive concentration and cravings encompassing an addictive behavior or substance
  • Letting go of activities or interest to give more time on an addictive behavior or substance
  • Failure to stop a destructive behavior despite repeated attempts
  • Continuously doing a behavior or using a substance despite negative consequences
  • Loved ones getting concerned about the addictive nature of the behavior or substance

As mentioned earlier, there are several factors that affect eating disorders and addiction. Among those identified are psychological traits, genetic components specifically those that are linked to certain chemical processes in the brain, environmental triggers, social pressures, and emotional trauma.

Stressful situations can usually lead to eating disorders and substance use disorder. This is because people use them as a means of self-medicating their underlying mental health issues like anxiety or depression or to cope with difficult emotions. Unfortunately, eating disorders and addiction are considered chronic diseases. This means that both conditions require intensive, long-term therapy and there is a possibility of treatment resistance and high relapse rates.

How Are Eating Disorders and Addiction Different from Each Other?

Even with their similarities, eating disorders and substance use disorder have few important differences. These make the recovery process of these conditions distinct from each other.

The first of which is developing abstinence. This is a critical factor when it comes to drugs and alcohol. However, this is not true to those with eating disorders. They cannot abstain from food as they should instead develop a healthy relationship with it. To avoid relapse, they need to learn how to eat in public, sit at a dining table, and engage in certain triggering activities.

Another area that is unique to eating disorders is how the person with the condition evaluates himself or herself. This self-evaluation is highly dependent on one’s appearance particular on their weight. Most people with the disorder base their self-worth on the number they see on the weighing scale or their body shape.

Thus, despite the similarities between eating disorders and addiction, these differences will spell a significant difference in the treatment.

Treating Eating Disorders and Addiction

Eating disorders and substance use disorder should be given preferential attention. The fact that there is a recognition of a correlation between eating disorders and addiction paved the way for rehabilitation centers to provide dual diagnosis treatment. This is a program that addresses both conditions simultaneously.

The concurrent approach to treat eating disorders and addiction is critical to ensure a complete recovery. Treating the conditions separately increases the risk of the individual to suffer from remission in one as the other crops up. This is also detrimental to the patient as they might feel being stuck in a seemingly unending cycle of remission and relapse.

Recognizing the link between eating disorders and substance use disorder will ensure that multidisciplinary care is given to people who need it as they get on track to recovery.

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Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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