Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

It’s very common for people with mental health disorders to start abusing substances to cope. It’s also very common for people with substance use disorders to later develop mental health disorders. Thus, mental health and substance use disorders often co-occur. One type of mental health and physical disorder that often co-occurs with substance abuse are eating disorders. Treatment for eating disorders along with co-occurring eating disorders and substance abuse issues occurs at an addiction treatment and/or dual diagnosis treatment center such as Grace Land Recovery.
We Believe in Treating the Individual, Not Just the Addiction

What is an Eating Disorder?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), eating disorders are mental illnesses that are characterized by abnormal eating habits that threaten a person’s physical health and well-being. Eating disorders usually originate as some sort of obsession. Sometimes that obsession is truly about the person’s eating habits, weight, and/or body. Other times people that are obsessed with other aspects of their lives start to take out those obsessions on things that they can control, such as their eating habits and bodies.

In the United States, approximately 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. While both men and women suffer from eating disorders, more women struggle with this type of mental illness. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), about twice as many women suffer from eating disorders as men.

This could partly be due to the beauty standards placed on women. Regardless of whether a person with an eating disorder is a man or a woman, the abnormal eating habits of that person will vary depending on the type of eating disorder that he or she suffers from.

Common Types of Eating Disorders

There are many different types of eating disorders. Each different type of eating disorder is characterized by slightly different issues and eating habits.

Some of the most common types of eating disorders are described below:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, otherwise known as just anorexia, is an eating disorder that’s characterized by starving oneself. Many people that suffer from anorexia develop a warped view of themselves that causes them to see themselves as overweight even as they start to lose massive amounts of weight and become unhealthily thin.

For instance, people with anorexia can become so thin due to their excessive dieting that they harm their internal organs and starve themselves to the point of death if not hospitalized and treated for their condition. Some people with anorexia become so miserable while starving themselves that they even commit suicide.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, otherwise known as bulimia, is an eating disorder that causes people to binge eat an excessive amount of food. Later, they forcibly purge that food through vomiting, over exercising, and/or using diuretics or laxatives. People that suffer from bulimia usually can’t control their binge eating habits. This is because they often binge eat to cope with life. Unfortunately, the guilt and worry about weight that people with bulimia often feel after they binge eat later causes them to purge their bodies of the food they binge ate in unhealthy manners.

Unlike anorexia, bulimia isn’t as obvious to the eye. This is because many people with bulimia are still able to maintain a healthy weight. Some of the tell-tale signs of bulimia though include behavioral changes like not eating in front of others.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is characterized by compulsive overeating. Thus, binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia except that the people that binge eat don’t purge their bodies afterward. Many people that binge eat do so to cope with the stresses of life.

Because people that binge eat don’t purge their food afterward, many binge eaters are overweight or obese. There are many people with binge eating disorders, though, that are of a healthy weight.

Binge eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder in the United States. Thus, many rehab centers that offer treatment for eating disorders and their co-occurring illnesses can help people stop binge-eating.

Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Because people with eating disorders tend to struggle with self-esteem issues, distorted body image, and the stresses of life, it’s common for people with eating disorders to use substances. In fact, although unhealthy, the use of substances often acts as another coping mechanism for people with eating disorders.

People with eating disorders may also start abusing substances to help them curb their appetite.

Eating disorders and substance abuse co-occur so often that, according to an article in Social Work Today, 50% of people with an eating disorder also abuse substances.

Signs of Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

There are many signs that show you whether or not a person likely suffers from an eating disorder and substance abuse issues. These signs can be physical or behavioral.

Physical Signs of Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Physical signs of eating disorders and substance abuse include anything that hurts the body and is visible to the eye. Common physical signs of eating disorders and substance abuse include:

  • Calluses on knuckles
  • Sunken cheekbones
  • Blotchy or scabby skin
  • Decaying teeth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Severe weight loss

Behavioral Signs of Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Behavioral signs of eating disorders and substance abuse include anything that alters a person’s behaviors. Common behavioral signs of eating disorders and substance abuse include:

  • Inability to stop destructive behaviors even after trying multiple times
  • Obsession with food and how much one eats
  • Intense cravings for food
  • Strict rules surrounding dieting or use of substances
  • Not eating in front of others
  • No longer taking part in activities that one once enjoyed because one is spending that time obsessing over food and dieting
  • Continuing to display negative eating habits despite it having negative effects on one’s life

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Making sure that you attend the right treatment for eating disorders and any possible co-occurring substance use issues is important. Individuals that suffer from eating disorders and substance use issues should attend specialized dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment is a treatment program that contains a mix of therapy sessions that will treat one disorder and therapy sessions that will treat another disorder all at the same time.

The reason why it’s necessary to treat two disorders that a person has such as eating disorders and substance use disorders at the same time is that both of the disorders affect one another. For example, because many of the same neurotransmitters affect substance use disorders and eating disorders and many people develop one of these disorders because of the other one, treating them individually will only cause the lingering disorder to cause the reappearance of the treated disorder.

On the other hand, simultaneous treatment for eating disorders and their co-occurring substance use issues will help neither type of disorder cause the reappearance of the other one. Furthermore, both disorders would be securely treated. That’s why simultaneous treatment for eating disorders and substance use issues is necessary.

Receive Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse At Grace Land Recovery

Grace Land Recovery is a dual diagnosis treatment center located near Memphis, Tennessee. As a dual diagnosis treatment center, Grace Land specializes in providing treatment for eating disorders and their co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. If you live in Tennessee and are suffering from eating disorders and substance abuse or any co-occurring disorder, you should receive treatment at Grace Land Recovery.

You can also receive just addiction treatment and mental health treatment at Grace Land Recovery. This is because our rehab center offers a wide variety of treatment programs that are specialized for specific substance addictions or mental health disorders. All of our treatment programs here at Grace Land Recovery are also individualized to fit the specific needs of each patient.

To learn more about Grace Land Recovery and its treatment for eating disorders and other mental health and substance use issues, contact us today!

Causes of Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

There are many factors that play a role in people’s development of eating disorders and substance abuse. In fact, many of the common causes of substance abuse can also be common causes of eating disorders.

Genetics

Research shows that around 60% of people that suffer from the co-occurring disorder of eating disorders and substance abuse contain a genetic predisposition to do so. In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that are activated within people with eating disorders are the same neurotransmitters that are activated within people with substance use issues.

Environment

People’s environment almost always plays a role in their development of mental health and substance use disorders. When it comes to the development of eating disorders, societal pressures to remain thin and beautiful can especially act as a trigger. The stresses of life due to one’s environment can also act as a trigger for substance use.

Emotional and Physical Trauma

Past trauma, whether emotional or physical, can easily cause people to develop eating disorders and/or substance use disorders. In fact, people often develop eating disorders and/or substance use disorders due to underlying trauma. That trauma can range from physical, mental, or sexual abuse to feeling like you have no control over your life.

Poor Mental Health

People that suffer from mental health issues can easily develop eating disorders and substance use disorders. This is because people with poor mental health often need something in their lives that can help them cope. That thing can be food or drugs. Many people with poor mental health also suffer from eating disorders and substance abuse issues because they feel that they have no control over their lives outside of their choice of food and drugs.

Find Your Recovery

Our mission is to help individuals achieve sobriety by getting to the root of their addiction issues. We also aim to treat the minds, bodies, and souls of our patients.

Don't Fight This Battle Alone Get the Help You Need & Deserve