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Spotting the Connection: Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

It is not uncommon for people with substance abuse problems to also have co-occurring disorders.  The same factors that contribute to drug and alcohol addiction can also play a role in other conditions.  Many treatment facilities recognize this connection and provide services for patients with a dual diagnosis.  This means that they have more than one illness at a time.  In order to effectively resolve one issue, they must treat both.

A Surprising Connection

One condition that has a strong tie to people with substance abuse is eating disorders.  In fact, studies have found that:

  • Approximately three percent of the general population suffers from eating disorders, but approximately 35 percent of drug and alcohol abusers do.
  • As many as half of people with eating disorders abuse drugs or alcohol.

Substance abuse can occur at any time during an eating disorder.  Both conditions are influenced by similar genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors.  They alter the way the body processes rewards and emotions, and how it utilizes food.  Some substances can cause a person to lose their appetite and therefore lose weight.  Once they start shedding pounds, it can trigger an eating disorder.  Or, similarly, people with an eating disorder may become addicted to the substances they use to help them lose weight and suppress their appetite.  Diet pills, laxatives, diuretics and other drugs may lead the way to using illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana.

Treating the Cause

At the root of many drug or alcohol addictions and eating disorders are mental and emotional issues.  Anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, unpleasant thoughts, painful experiences, and more are all reasons that people turn to these unhealthy measures.  They use them as coping mechanisms and a way to avoid dealing with reality.

When it comes to overcoming addiction and eating disorders, is important that patients find a rehabilitation facility that treats both conditions.  Often drug and alcohol treatment centers offer detox, which can help the person to safely rid their body of all drugs and alcohol.  This is one of the first steps of starting the path to recovery.

Both addicts and people with eating disorders can benefit from some of the same types of treatment:

  • Individual, group, and family therapy
  • Support groups
  • Healthy eating plans
  • Daily exercise
  • Coping strategies

Patients with eating disorders must be monitored carefully, however, to ensure that their diet and exercise remain healthy and do not go to extremes.  They must learn how to create a safe balance to support their body and mind in recovery.

An Equal Opportunity Disease

Just like addiction, eating disorders do not discriminate.  Though eating disorders are stereotypically thought of as a condition affecting mainly females, it is estimated that as many as one million males are affected.  In addition, approximately 57 percent of males who have a binge eating disorder suffer from substance abuse problems.  It is important for medical professionals to recognize the link between substance abuse and eating disorders and help patients to get the treatment they need.

Finding a treatment center that offers dual diagnosis programs as well as medically supervised detox is ideal.  These facilities are experienced in addressing all aspects of a person’s condition and developing a personalized plan to help them.  The staff at Chapters Capistrano is skilled at treating patients with a variety of conditions, both standalone and dual diagnosis.  If you or a loved one are suffering, you do not have to go through it alone.  Contact Chapters Capistrano today to see how we can help to you take back control of your body and your life.