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Eating Disorders and Addiction: Does one Encourage the Other?

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Eating Disorders and Addiction: Does one Encourage the Other?

Co-Occurring Mental Disorders – Eating Disorders and Addiction

Nearly 24 million Americans suffer from some form of eating disorder. In a culture that is oftentimes obsessed with image and weight, the widespread effect that this mental disorder has is alarming. Many of these individuals turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of furthering their obsessive weight loss goals. Some may abuse drugs and alcohol as they do food. In both cases, eating disorders and addiction can create both a mental and physical dependence that can form in a relatively short time when there is no treatment and a lack of coping skills for the real issues behind the disorder.

Some estimates put dieting in teens at around 40 to 60 percent in America. An eating disorder can be any situation in which a person has abnormal eating habits that usually have a negative impact on their lives. Not only are eating disorders serious conditions, but they can be fatal. When eating disorders and addiction co-exists, the danger only increases. 

The National Eating Disorder Foundation reported that nearly half of the people with an eating disorder also have a problem with alcohol and drug abuse. Eating disorders and addictions share common factors and symptoms, overlapping and sharing the same risk factors. Both of the conditions seem to become more prominent when there are stressful situations occurring in the person’s life and they can both begin due to depression and anxiety. Compulsive behavior is also a common trait among both disorders as well as sharing the same risk factors including imbalances in brain chemistry, stress, family history and child abuse. In the disorders, people often become obsessed with it. Lastly, they can both trigger potentially fatal situations.

Eating Disorders and Addiction are Destructive Coping Mechanisms

Both addicts and individuals with eating disorders struggle with their self-image and often lack self-confidence. This could be a result of a traumatic event, family upbringing, social phobia, lack of control over ones own life, and many other instances. The eating disorder is usually mechanism to gain control of something and prove power. Addictions can be an escape method for individuals who experience similar feelings but they can also be a tool for loosing weight. Amphetamines are drugs such as cocaine and adderall which are well known for having side effects which curb appetite. 

Types of Eating Disorders and Addiction Behaviors Include:

  1.  Anorexia nervosa – A person with anorexia nervosa is obsessed with their weight. They may weigh themselves several times a day and even when they are dangerously undernourished and thin, they will still see themselves as fat. It is one of the disorders with the highest rate of death; some may die from lack of nourishment while others may take their own life. Symptoms that can indicate this form of eating disorder includes restricted eating, a very thin body, obsession with thinness and wanting to maintain their weight, abnormal fear of putting on weight and low self-esteem due to the distorted body image the person has.

  2.  Bulimia nervosa – The cycle that a person with bulimia nervosa goes through is one where they binge-eat in episodes that are followed by an effort to make up for their eating habits. They may vomit the food out, use laxatives and fast for days after binge eating. However, a person with this condition may seem to have a normal figure and weight. Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include chronic sore throat (inflamed), deterioration of teeth, acid reflux, swollen glands, intestinal distress and dehydration.

  3. Binge-eating disorder – Similar to bulimia, the person will eat an excessive amount but the act is not followed by excessive exercise, purging or fasting. For this reason, people who with binge eating disorder are often overweight. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States. The symptoms and signs of this type of disorder include eating excessive amounts of food in one sitting, eating quickly, eating even if the person’s limit has been reached, feelings of guilt and shame, eating alone and frequent diets without signs of weight loss.

Treatment for the Eating Disorders and Addiction  can be handled with a dual diagnosis treatment program, which aims to treat both mental illnesses at the same time to ensure that relapse does not occur as easily. Through group, family and individual therapy as well as alternative treatment methods, you or your loved one can learn to overcome behaviors that are driven by lack of self-confidence and lead a healthy lifestyle.

 

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