Eating Disorders, Self-harm and Addiction

Eating Disorders, Self-harm and AddictionEating disorders are associated with a high incidence of co-occurring mental health issues. In other words, people who suffer from an eating disorder commonly suffer from one or more other issues as well. Co-occurring disorders that frequently occur alongside an eating disorder include depression and substance abuse. Often these interrelated conditions comprise a self-reinforcing cycle that is likely to end in tragedy.

How Addiction, Depression and Eating Disorders Work Together

Eating disorders typically result from a combination of internal and external causes. Someone may have a genetic predisposition to an eating disorder, or he may be involved in situations that increase his risk for developing a problem with food. There is a high correlation between eating disorders and childhood abuse or trauma. An eating disorder may also stem from poor body image, which may result from a perceived failure to meet societal standards of the ideal body.

Either a genetic predisposition or a poor self-image may trigger an eating disorder, especially in someone who is predisposed to depression. One of the most common responses to depression is to seek relief in substance abuse, and depression may also trigger self-harming behaviors such as cutting or burning the skin, as well as attempts at suicide. Therefore, a combination of both internal and external factors can lead to co-occurring disorders like an eating disorder, addiction and depression that causes self-harm.

Some people develop an eating disorder to control one aspect of life while they feel powerless in other areas. This feeling of helplessness can also easily lead to depression, which people often treat by abusing a drug. Similarly, many people use self-harming behavior, such as cutting or burning the skin, to control an aspect of life while they feel powerless in other ways. Therefore, as with most co-occurring disorders, an eating disorder, addiction and self-harming behaviors all likely stem from the same root cause(s).

Integrated Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Eating disorders are potentially fatal; according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 20% of people with an eating disorder die from anorexia. However, with treatment the number falls to 2 to 3%, meaning that patients can recover with the right help. Additionally, addiction is also potentially fatal. And of course, depression that is serious enough to lead to self-harming behavior may also include suicidal attempts that can result in tragedy. It is critical to receive treatment for any and all of these conditions.

Co-occurring disorders such as these are best treated with integrated treatment that will address how they all interrelate. By addressing and resolving the underlying issues, patients can learn to cope with their pain without resorting to self-destructive behaviors. If you would like help finding integrated treatment, please call our toll-free helpline today. Counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have and to help you find the treatment you need.