Feeding the Hunger Within | Eating Disorders and Addiction

The United States is currently experiencing a crisis regarding the growing opioid epidemic. Substance abuse affects nearly 20.1 million Americans, all ranging in age. The rising numbers of individuals suffering from addiction in the U.S. alone are alarming. What’s more alarming is the number of individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders, specifically eating disorders. The comorbidity of eating disorders and addiction is more common than you might think.

Eating disorders affect nearly 30 million Americans ranging in sex and age. Out of the individuals solely suffering from eating disorders, about 20-30 percent of these individuals are also dealing with substance abuse disorder.

A Hunger That Never Subsides

What is the exact connection between eating disorders and addiction? Well, first, both are categorized as illnesses deriving from genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. There are three different types of eating disorders, all classified as mental illness. Substance abuse disorders, or addiction, are also classified as a disease; however, both are treatable.

Eating disorders and addiction affect the personalities of those simultaneously dealing with these issues.

Impulsivity and the desire for more, or less, in some cases, is a common thought process occurring between the two. When dealing with comorbidity, you will feel like what you have is never enough. You can never have enough drugs or be thin enough to feel satisfied with yourself, which increases the severity of any action you are taking to achieve the desired results.

Both eating disorders and addiction affect the brain negatively. The reward centers in the brain are activated once you take a drug or partake in actions associated with an eating disorder.

Typically, when you are in the grips of active addiction, your mood and thought process is surrounded by negativity and irrationality. The same goes for eating disorders, which trigger the need to partake in certain behaviors depending on the type of eating disorder you suffer from. However, over time, the false sense of happiness and relief diminish—resulting in higher extremities in order to achieve those feelings of “happiness”.

The influx of pleasure in the brain triggered by outside factors such as drugs, alcohol, or food eventually results in negative changes to the brain. Sometimes these changes are permanent and the methods of treatment must be intense in order to recover.

Similarities & Differences

Eating disorders and addiction are both self-destructive behaviors. They share similar properties and consequences.

Many behaviors associated with substance abuse exist in individuals with eating disorders. These consist of:

  • Recurrent failure to resist impulses to engage in a behavior
  • Pleasure or relief immediately after engaging in a behavior
  • Increasing anxiety or tension prior to the behavior
  • Feeling a loss of control in regards to the behavior.
  • Engaging in a behavior to a greater extent or longer than intended.
  • Repeated efforts to reduce, control, or stop
  • Decrease in social, occupational, or recreational activities due to the obsession.
  • Continuation despite the consequences.
  • Restlessness or irritability if you cannot engage in the behavior
  • Tolerance build-up or feeling the need to increase the intensity or frequency of the behavior

Although eating disorders and addiction are different in many ways, classifying whether you have one or the other remains the same. The mental obsession to use drugs or food controls you and slowly strips you of everything you have emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Living in recovery from eating disorders and addiction is also slightly different. While those suffering from addiction must abstain from all substances; those suffering from eating disorders cannot abstain from food. Challenges arise when it comes to learning how to build healthy relationships with food and eating patterns, similarly to the way an individual struggling with substance abuse has to repair relationships with family and friends.

The Dangers of Comorbidity

The physical and emotional consequences resulting from eating disorders and addiction can be debilitating. When suffering from an eating disorder alone, the health consequences are severe. Negative symptoms that arise from eating disorders consist of:

  • Reduction of bone density
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • The risk of heart failure increase
  • Blood pressure drastically lowers
  • Severe dehydration
  • Tooth decay
  • Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus
  • Possibly gastric rupture
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Development of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Infertility

Eating disorders in conjunction with addiction can lead to severe consequences and have the potential to be fatal. Along with the health consequences of eating disorders, the consequences of addiction worsen the symptoms. Addiction can lead to health consequences such as:

  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Fatigue
  • Decrease in motivation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Disease in the blood
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory depression
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Damage to vital internal organs

Although there are a few differences in the consequences of eating disorders and addiction, the overall result of comorbidity is severely dangerous. However, eating disorders and addiction can be treated using unique and effective methods.

Eating Disorder and Addiction Treatment

Eating disorders and addiction are both classified as mental illnesses, which means they can be treated using similar techniques.

A treatment plan for substance abuse generally remains constant. Depending on the substance of abuse, you will begin the recovery process with detox, then inpatient, and lastly attend an outpatient program. Also, there are 12-step based programs that cater to eating disorders and addiction to continue treatment after attending a medical facility.

At the same time you are treating a substance abuse disorder, you will be given specific guidelines on how to overcome the struggles of your eating disorder. A few effective methods used in treating an eating disorder consist of:

  • Psychosocial treatment
  • Nutrition and addiction education
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Group or family therapy
  • Medical stabilization

The requirement of certain methods depends on the severity of the illness; however, dual diagnosis treatment centers will be able to combat symptoms of both issues using a number of proven methods.

Are You Struggling?

Eating disorders and addiction can severely impact the body and brain. If you or someone you know is struggling, there is help available. Drug Treatment Center Finder can help you find the right program that suits your individual needs. Whether you struggle with comorbidity or addiction alone, our trained professional staff is available 24/7 to help you regain control of your life. If you call (855) 619-8070 today, we can help! It’s never too late to turn your life around, so why wait?

Paige Hohmann :