When Eating Disorders and Drug Addiction Collide

Posted on December 1, 2015

Photo source: Flickr

Most people think of eating disorders and drug addiction as separate and distinct issues, but as many people who suffer with these maladies know firsthand, there is often significant overlap between the two. According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, up to one-half of individuals with eating disorders abuse drugs or alcohol, compared to 9 percent of the general population. Up to 35 percent of drug abusers have eating disorders, compared to 3 percent of the general population.

Are eating disorders addictions? Similarities
Because the diagnostic criteria for these conditions closely resemble one another and there is a trend toward broadening the definition of addiction to include process addictions such as gambling, sex and food, eating disorders could be described as a type of addiction. With a few exceptions, screening for eating disorders is markedly similar to screening for drug addiction. As clinicians, we look for:

○ Obsessive preoccupation, cravings and rituals surrounding an addictive behavior
○ Escalation in frequency or intensity over time
○ Sacrificing other interests to spend more time on an addictive substance/behavior
○ Inability to stop a destructive behavior despite repeated attempts
○ Loved ones expressing concern about a particular behavior
○ Continued use of a substance/behavior despite negative consequences

Differences that impact recovery
While addicts can sever their relationship with drugs and alcohol, people with eating disorders cannot abstain from food. Instead, they face the unique challenges of developing a healthy relationship with food and learning to sit at a dinner table, eat in public and engage in other triggering activities without relapsing.

The body serves as a metaphor for the individual’s emotional state. They may say, “I feel fat,” but the underlying issue is unaddressed emotions such as anger, shame or sadness that get expressed through the body.

Concurrent treatment for eating disorders and addiction
Treated separately, what usually happens is that the individual gets help for either an eating disorder or drug addiction, and when that goes into remission the other condition crops up. The patient goes from one treatment facility to another, thinking they’re making progress but ending up stuck in an endless cycle of remission and relapse.

This article was adapted from the link found below. Click to read it in full.


Category(s):Addictions, Drug Addiction, Eating Disorders

Source material from Psychology Today


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