Eating Disorders and Addiction
It is very common for those with eating disorders to misuse substances. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, about 50% of women with eating disorders (EDs) struggle with some sort of substance use disorder. This is a multifaceted relationship. Studies have shown that these disorders can arise from the same set of personality traits or past experiences. Both kinds can be ways of coping with trauma in the past. Substance use can also be an enabler for the eating disorder. Drugs can speed up metabolism or suppress appetite, which is desirable specifically for those suffering from anorexia.
What Factors Cause Eating Disorders?
It is important, while seeking treatment, that individuals acknowledge that the same underlying issues for these disorders can be expressed in various ways. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is seen as a common underlying factor in women suffering from both EDs and substance use disorder.
Some personality traits have also been cited as indicators for the propensity to develop multiple disorders. However, it is important to note that these personality traits, including self-destructive and erratic behavior, are much more consistent and obvious when comparing subsets of ED sufferers with and without the comorbidity of substance use disorder. Usually, comparing ED sufferers with substance use sufferers leads to a much less significant correlation. This indicates that there is a very specific set of traits that intersect in individuals with both substance use disorders and EDs.
Types of Eating Disorders and Addiction
The exact types of eating disorder and substance use disorder is also important to consider, as it can help make a more specific diagnosis and a more highly-tailored treatment plan. For example, according to Clinical Psychology Review, a substance use usually is more often seen with bulimia nervosa and binge/purge anorexia than with restrictive anorexia. This occurs because of the similar physiological effects of using drugs and purging.
Opiate use offers a rush of endorphins to the person, an effect that is also gained by the action of purging. Examining the differences between eating disorders – and why they often coexist with other substance use disorders – can lead to answers about how to treat these disorders.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, it is important to distinguish between the types of substance a person is misusing. Most eating disorder clinics are familiar with abuse of laxatives, diuretics, and other over-the-counter drugs, but if serious addiction to illicit drugs is involved, treatment must involve professionals trained in that field.
What Can Parents Do About Eating Disorders?
In terms of what parents can do, the best thing is to make sure that you are working with a practitioner that has experience in treating both conditions, so that there is a coordination of care. The ED and the substance use problem need to be addressed concurrently.
Get Confidential Help Today
If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder and/or addiction, contact Liberty Wellness in Berlin, NJ today for a confidential consultation. We offer a variety of programs to help patients recover, including Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment.