Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Eating Disorders

If you came to this page seeking information and help for tough emotions coupled with a devastating relationship with food, you have arrived at the right place.

Eating disorders are chronic, difficult challenges for both those who suffer from the disorder and their families. Whether you are dealing with anorexia, bulimia, or chronic binge eating, treatment for these issues is nearly impossible to do alone. But with proper information and some positive resources, anything is possible.

What does it mean to have an eating disorder?

An eating disorder occurs when a person has an unhealthy relationship with food that causes persistent life problems and distress.

This can mean a lot of things, including but not limited to:

  • Unhealthy obsession with eating or food
  • Using food as a method of self-comfort in unhealthy ways
  • Severely restricting food due to a belief that one is overweight or somehow unattractive (anorexia nervosa)
  • Binging food – eating large amounts of food at one time (binge eating)
  • Purging food – making oneself vomit food or pass food quickly using laxatives or other drugs or even exercising in extreme amounts (bulimia nervosa)

How can you tell the difference between problem eating and an eating disorder?

Problem eating that is not a disorder can include:

  • Overeating on occasion, especially on special occasions and holidays
  • Dieting and struggling with weight loss
  • Changes in eating due to stress, medication change, illness or life challenges
  • Weight loss due to illness
  • Overeating once or twice but not on a regular basis
  • Worries about appearance in both women and men

Eating disorders are much more likely to include:

  • The use of pills, diuretics or induced vomiting to aid weight loss
  • Obsession with weight even when the person is already thin or overly skinny
  • Emotional distress related to eating habits
  • Hoarding or hiding food and eating patterns
  • Exercising until muscles are injured or give out on a regular basis
  • Strict rules surrounding eating habits that impede on normal life

What does it mean to have a dual diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis occurs when a person has both a mental disorder and a substance abuse problem, and it is much more common than you might think. In most cases, people with eating disorders not only struggle with the challenge of the eating disorder, but they also struggle with anxiety, depression and sometimes obsessive compulsive traits.

Dealing with all of these emotions is hard for anyone. In order to feel better or to feel more control in life, sometimes people turn to substance use to gain a sense of peace or a sense of control over life. This happens gradually and most people do not intend to use substances to cope with life. Soon the pattern of the eating disorder along with the substance abuse becomes a downward spiral, leading to miserable days and a seemingly uncontrollable existence.

Some of the substances most commonly abused by those with eating disorders include:

  • Amphetamines or ADHD medication – these drugs speed up the metabolism and give the user a false sense of security, helping make him or her more able to stay awake without nutrients, complete exhaustive workouts and suppress the appetite. The big danger with these drugs is heart failure, electrolyte imbalance, stroke and heart attack that can occur almost instantly even in young people.
  • Marijuana, alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines (like Xanax) or other downers – Many individuals with eating disorders also suffer from great anxiety. These drugs may give the person a temporary feeling of relaxation and respite from anxiety. The downside is that these can be habit forming and cause impaired judgment. Plus many of these drugs can slow the body down until breathing stops. In those with anorexia especially, the stomach is often already so empty that even small doses can cause an overdose.
  • Heroin, opiates or other street drugs – The cycle of pain brought on by an eating disorder along with the self-anger that most eating disorder sufferers feel is enough to make these individuals want to “check out” just to escape negative cognitions. While many of these drugs offer this ability to “check out” from reality, they are highly addictive and highly deadly, especially to an already compromised and often malnourished body system.

This is in no way a complete list. Every person is different, and every treatment should also be different and catered to the individual person.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Eating Disorders

If you or a loved one suffers from a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and any mental health issue, you are not alone. We offer a toll free 24-hour helpline that is staffed by trained counselors to guide you through treatment options. If money is an issue, our counselors can help you better understand your insurance benefits to see where you may get aid in receiving help. If you do not have insurance, we can still help you find other resources to get you on your way to wellness.

Dual diagnosis requires a special form of treatment designed to help with the underlying emotional issues behind the substance abuse problem. Special care must be taken to kindly and effectively work with each individual to ensure specialized treatment.  If a person suffers from dual diagnosis, many regular treatment centers are not equipped to handle both the substance abuse and mental health issues at one time, and in those cases treatment may not be effective.

Call now to learn more about why dual diagnosis treatment is different and find out how to help your loved one. Don’t let another day go by without knowing what recovery solutions are available. Call us today.

(866) 612-7509