Anorexia and Addiction: A Complex and Toxic Relationship

Anorexia is one of the most common types of eating disorder. It affects nearly three million Americans and over twenty percent of anorexia-related deaths are the result of suicide. About half of anorexia patients have comorbid anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia and about 33-50 percent of anorexia patients have a comorbid mood disorder, such as depression. Anorexia is characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat. It is often closely to linked to certain kinds of addiction and substance abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia

Anorexia is manifested through extreme behavior which results in rather obvious signs and symptoms. If there’s one silver lining with this illness, it’s that it may be easier to detect than other types of mental disorder. While each person’s anorexia symptoms are unique according to the scope and severity of their condition, some of the more common signs include:

• Extreme Weight Loss
• Tooth Decay
• Refusal to Eat During Meal Time
• Binge Eating
• Compulsive Behavior
• Hyperactivity
• Impulsivity
• Social Isolation

Women suffer from eating disorder at twice the rate of men. If you or someone you care about are suffering from these or any other symptoms related to anorexia, it’s important to get treatment right away to avoid any further health issues.

Effects of Prolonged Anorexia

Prolonged and untreated anorexia creates an enormous variety of physical and psychological health issues, the exact scope of which will vary in each individual patient. Some of the more common effects of anorexia include, but are not limited to:

• Fatigue Due to Malnutrition
• Organ Failure
• Infertility
• Dental Issues
• Headaches
• Heart Failure
• Brain Damage
• Gastrointestinal Issues

Anorexia can also lead to more extreme psychological issues like depression, anxiety, trauma and the deepening of low self-esteem. Lifestyle issues include decline in professional or academic performance and the deterioration of romantic relationships. Anorexia is closely linked to distorted body images and dysfunctional self-perception.

Treating Co-Occurring Addiction and Anorexia

Anorexia is often closely linked to the same type of trauma that creates and sustains substance abuse. Research suggests that nearly 50 percent of individuals with an eating disorder (ED) are also abusing drugs and/or alcohol, at a rate five times greater than what is seen in the general population. Both of these conditions are the result of genetic, behavioral and lifestyle factors that could easily be intertwined. Treatment for co-occurring anorexia and substance abuse must include simultaneous care for both conditions. This includes intensive medical care to address the physical effects of malnutrition, withdrawal symptoms and lingering effects of prolonged substance abuse followed by in-depth, ongoing behavioral care to address the origins and self-image issues that led to the two conditions.

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