An individual who suffers from both substance abuse or addiction and an eating disorder has what is known as co-occurring conditions. Mental health disorders can affect how a person receives addiction treatment because both conditions must be concurrently treated for the person to have the best chance at Recovery.
The Prevalence of Dual Diagnoses
Individuals who suffer from mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, may be more likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol. Many start abusing substances as a misguided way of self-medicating and to relieve some of their symptoms. In other cases, the substance appears to be causing or worsening the mental illness itself.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly half of all those who suffer from an eating disorder such as bulimia also engage in drug or alcohol abuse. What’s more, about 20% of those persons meet the diagnostic criteria for chronic alcohol abuse and addiction.
Any individual with an eating disorder and addiction should seek help from an addiction treatment center specializing in co-occurring disorders, also known as a dual diagnosis. Psychiatric conditions that exist in combination with an eating disorder have been associated with a higher risk of substance abuse.
Fortunately, treatment is available to help those suffering from an eating disorder and addiction. These persons often require intensive programs and an approach that focuses on addressing both problems simultaneously.
What Is Bulimia?
Bulimia is an emotional disorder in which an individual overeats or “binges” then uses a “purge” method such as vomiting or using laxatives to prevent weight gain. The person may also engage in other potentially unhealthy weight control activities, such as excessive exercise or fasting. Unfortunately, this approach to weight control can be detrimental to one’s health and often contributes to mental health problems, including anxiety or depression.
More women than men suffer from bulimia, but anyone can develop tendencies toward the condition. People with bulimia tend to have body image issues but are not necessarily underweight, unlike those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction
According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), in 2016, 28.6 million persons aged 12 or older reported the past-month use of illicit drugs. Many people use these drugs infrequently, but others are wholly dependent on them. Furthermore, 16.3 million individuals aged 12 or older reported engaging in past-month excessive alcohol use.
Characteristic warning signs of addiction include the use of drugs or alcohol to avoid uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms and a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed. Individuals who experience addiction will engage in compulsive, substance-seeking behavior and also try to hide the extent of their condition from loved ones.
Signs of abuse also include a failure to tend to responsibilities at work, home, or school. A substance abuser may resort to borrowing money or stealing items to support their habit. And, they may continue to use substances despite conflicts they are incurring in interpersonal relationships.
The use of drugs or alcohol does not necessarily indicate a person has full-blown addiction. However, if you or a loved one abuses substances, it is essential to seek help before dependence and addiction develop.
Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
As noted, co-occurring conditions are most effectively treated using long-term, comprehensive programs that address both disorders concurrently. Alcoholism and drug addiction can amplify the symptoms of eating disorders, leading the person into a cycle of mental illness and substance abuse that feels impossible to surmount.
Many people will require medical detox before they can be appropriately assessed and treated. The intensity of both conditions and associated risks and complications must be considered when ascertaining the most effective treatment.
During treatment, a person should work closely with therapists and counselors who can help them manage the eating disorder. Key treatment options include psychotherapy, which will teach a person better ways to deal with stress, cravings, and other issues. This approach can make it easier for the individual to avoid engaging in harmful habits due to adverse emotions.
A treatment program should also concentrate on getting the person back to a healthy weight if needed. In doing so, this can help those who are significantly underweight to relieve many unwanted side effects, such as dizziness and fatigue.
Medication is another option for co-occurring disorders. Health providers may administer medication for specific mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, to relieve emotional symptoms related to their conditions.
Getting Help for Co-Occurring Conditions
Just Believe Recovery offers integrated treatment programs intended to address mental health disorders such as bulimia and addiction. We use a comprehensive approach to physical and emotional wellness that has been specially designed to improve treatment outcomes and effectively foster long-lasting Recovery.