How Eating Disorders Impact Addiction Recovery

How Eating Disorders Impact Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is complicated by an eating disorder, but both can be overcome through understanding and empowerment

Unfortunately, addiction recovery is made much more difficult if an eating disorder is involved. There are a variety of reasons for this complexity, and understanding this will empower a person to overcome both and move forward on the path to recovery.

A Little More About Eating Disorders

Prior to discussing the interaction between eating disorders and addiction, it is important to gain a basic understanding of the different eating disorders. Most experts agree there are three primary forms of eating disorders including the following:

  1. Anorexia nervosa – At its core, anorexia nervosa is consistently not consuming enough calories resulting in an unhealthy weight. Other symptoms include an intense fear of weight gain, self esteem being tied to body image and an inability to see the problem with this behavior.
  2. Bulimia nervosa – Bulimia nervosa combines frequent episodes of consuming large amounts of food followed by self-induced vomiting. During these binge eating activities, an individual will feel as though she is out of control as evidenced by choosing to eat while not hungry and intense shame.
  3. Binge eating disorder – Binge eating disorder has the binge eating of bulimia nervosa without the self-induced vomiting. The shame associated with eating activities is the same as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa as is the intense body image association.

Secrecy and Transparency Never Mix

Secrecy and transparency are antithetical, but understanding this is very important when discussing the interaction of eating disorders and addiction recovery. One of the most important aspects of a successful recovery is absolute honesty and transparency. Without honesty, the path to recovery is nearly impossible.

Allowing others in when dealing with an addiction is already monumentally difficult, but it is more challenging when adding an eating disorder. Shame is a part of the symptomology of every eating disorder, and with it comes secrecy. Nobody struggling with an eating disorder wants to expose this struggle, and as a result, it becomes commonplace to begin hiding other things as well.

Addiction Becomes a Coping Mechanism

As mentioned above, a poor self image is also a very common symptom of eating disorders. The individual battling this will become convinced he is ugly, that he is fat and that he will never measure up to anyone physically. This type of thought process becomes part of a daily routine and the language he speaks over himself.

The comorbidity of alcohol and eating disorders is particularly strong though research has not yet identified the exact connection. In other words, it is unclear if an individual turns to alcohol to escape the shame of her eating disorder, if the alcohol leads to an eating disorder or if both are actually symptoms of a third common cause. However, it does make sense anecdotally that one way to overcome these rapid fire negative thoughts is to turn to

The use of drugs or alcohol will serve to numb the pain, sorrow and self-loathing so often associated with eating disorders. In this way, the addiction is enhanced by the eating disorder and increases the dependence upon the drug of choice. To turn away from the drug is to come face to face with the negative thoughts and poor self image. In this case, the addiction becomes not only a physiological and psychological challenge, but is also a mental and emotional one.

Treatment Options Are Available

Even when alcohol addiction and eating disorders do exist in tandem with each other, effective treatments are available. These treatment options include individual psychotherapy focusing on esteem building, family counseling to allow opportunity for education, group therapy sessions with other Dual Diagnosis individuals, antidepressants or holistic treatments such as yoga and acupuncture.

Depending upon the severity of both the eating disorder and the alcohol addiction, treatment can take place in a variety of different venues. Options include community based treatment, intense outpatient treatment programs, inpatient rehabilitation or even in home treatment options.

It Is Hard, but You Are Not Beyond Hope

If you are struggling with an eating disorder alongside an addiction to drugs or alcohol, there will be moments or even days where you feel as though you are not able to keep it all together. You will feel like all hope is lost, and you are going to succeed. This is not the truth. You can overcome your addictions. You can find the support and strength to make healthier choices while eating.

If you feel like you cannot do this, the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. We can help you. We can answer your questions. The admission counselors at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can help you learn more about addiction. They can help you or your loved one find his or her way.