Addiction and Eating Disorder

Addiction and Eating Disorder: What’s the Connection and How Do I Get Help?

February 21-27 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It’s an opportunity to support, advocate, and empower people living with eating disorders while also examining their origins and impact. Recovery Unplugged is looking at the relationship between addiction and eating disorders, including how they influence each other and how to get help for both.

Over 10 percent of the United States population struggles with an eating disorder. At the same time, roughly the same number of Americans (40 million) struggle with substance use disorder. These populations often overlap, and it’s important that individuals struggling with co-occurring addiction and eating disorders get help for both.

What Is an Eating Disorder?

The American Psychiatric Association defines eating disorders as behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions. This can mean consuming too much or too little food for unhealthy reasons. Types of eating disorder include, but are not limited to:

  • Anorexia Nervosa (Obsessive Desire to Lose Weight by Refusing to Eat)
  • Bulimia Nervosa (Overeating Followed by Self-Induced Vomiting)
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) (Recurrent Episodes of Overeating Followed by Shame or Guilt)
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

An eating disorder is often linked to body image distortion and sometimes trauma associated with one’s weight. If trauma is a factor, it must be addressed during treatment to help form healthy associations with food and build normal eating habits.

How Are Addiction and Eating Disorders Related?

Addiction and eating disorders are linked in multiple ways. For one thing, the behaviors associated with eating disorders are generally driven by addiction of some kind, even if it’s not drugs or alcohol. This can be an addiction to maintaining a certain body image, an addiction to food, or similar types of dependency. Other examples of behaviors that indicate co-occurring addiction and eating disorder may include:

  • Addiction to Diet Pills or Weight Loss Supplements
  • Using Prescription Drugs Just Because Weight Loss Is A Side Effect (Wellbutrin, Adderall, Stimulants, Etc.)
  • Cocaine Abuse or Heroin Abuse for Weight Loss
  • Self-Medicating for Body Image-Related Trauma with Drugs or Alcohol

Up to 50 percent of people with eating disorders use alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate five times higher than the general population. Up to 35% of individuals who were dependent on alcohol or other drugs have also had eating disorders, a rate 11 times greater than the general population. Some of the most common types of addiction among people with an eating disorder include:

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Laxatives
  • Caffeine
  • Amphetamines
  • Diuretics
  • Cocaine

Eating disorders and substance abuse share many risk factors, including brain chemistry, family history, self-esteem issues, and others.

Treatment for Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders

Addiction can either develop because of eating disorders or alongside them, and it’s important to know how one influences the other when getting help. Treatment will help you identify the root causes of your eating disorder and how these factors influence substance use. You or your loved one’s care program should be tailored to your specific clinical needs and behavioral health history. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this kind of treatment.

Recovery Unplugged offers comprehensive dual-diagnosis treatment for addiction and mental health issues that can contribute to eating disorders. We offer all levels of care and are in-network with most major insurance companies to make treatment more accessible. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. End the struggle with your addiction and eating disorder now, and call us today to start your treatment. Our admissions representatives are ready to help you overcome addiction and eating disorder to reclaim your health, your peace of mind, and your quality of life.