Among the many mental health afflictions that occur alongside addiction at an increased rate, eating disorders are certainly one of the most dire. Similarly involving compulsive behavior, eating disorders put individuals well-being and even their lives in jeopardy, and that’s before you introduce a substance use disorder into the equation. With so many people who suffer from addiction also exhibiting signs of eating disorders, many have begun to wonder whether there’s a relationship. In other words, does having a substance abuse problem make a person more likely to develop an eating disorder?
What is an Eating Disorder?
The brain is a very complex organ, so it makes sense for such a complex organ to be prone to a wide variety of complex mental health disorders. In fact, mental health disorders are so historically enigmatic that we’ve really only just begun to really understand them, including how or why they develop, their symptoms, how they relate to other mental and physiological disorders, how to detect them accurately, and how to treat them. Of course, while some disorders are extremely difficult to detect and treat, there are some that tend to be much more apparent, making them easier to identify and diagnose. Among those easier-to-detect mental health disorders are a group of mental afflictions referred to collectively as eating disorders.
Interestingly, eating disorders represent a class of mental health disorder of which the general public is extremely familiar; however, in spite of this familiarity with numerous specific eating disorders, there’s a decidedly poor understanding of eating disorders overall. In particular, the general public tends to have a very poor understanding of the causes of most eating disorders and how they could nearly be described as diseases.
Like certain other mental health disorders, eating disorders revolve around a very specific type of behavior, which, in the present case, is eating and food-consumption behaviors. When a person suffers from an eating disorder, he or she compulsively controls his or her eating and food-consumption behavior. While most people tend to have regular, healthy eating habits, people with eating disorders tend to be quite limiting in the foods they consume and the frequency they eat meals. More often than not, the ultimate goal in limiting their food consumption is to exercise greater control over their weight and, by extension, their physical appearance; however, it’s important to note that there’s not been one singular cause of eating disorders to be identified. Instead, it seems more likely that a number of social, environmental, and even biological factors are at play when it comes to the development of an eating disorder.
As suggested above, there are a number of different afflictions that fall under the classification of eating disorder; however, the three most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia. Typically, an individual suffering from anorexia nervosa — often referred to as simply anorexia — tends to exhibit many of the hallmarks of an eating disorder. Not only do these hallmarks tend to accompany those who suffer from anorexia nervosa, these signs and symptoms often manifest much more quickly than with other disorders.
With anorexia nervosa, the individual limits his or her food intake to an intense degree. In fact, a person who suffers from anorexia might consume so little food that he or she becomes malnourished and quite emaciated. If left untreated, prolonged anorexia nervosa can lead to profound health complications that can culminate in bodily organs and entire systems shutting down, eventually leading to the individual’s death.
Binge Eating Disorder
While anorexia nervosa involves very, very minimal food intake, a person who suffers from binge eating disorder will consume extremely large amounts of food; however, the caveat is that this tends to happen during binge-eating sessions that occur periodically. In fact, it’s quite possible for individuals who suffer from binge eating disorder to eat only a couple of times per week. As such, binge eating disorder tends to prevent the profound malnourishment and emaciation that’s often associated with anorexia nervosa, but the poor nutrition can still result in a number of serious health complications.
After anorexia nervosa, bulimia is one of the most widely known and recognizable eating disorders. Sometimes alternately referred to as binging and purging, bulimia is an eating disorder that entails regurgitating or vomiting one’s food after having eaten a meal. In spite of the fact that people suffering from bulimia tend to eat large amounts of food in contrast with the very minimal amounts of food that people with anorexia nervosa consume, bulimia is actually quite similar to anorexia nervosa in that the frequent purging of the food that’s consumed can result in profound malnourishment and emaciation. This occurs because the food typically isn’t in the body long enough for the body to begin processing the food and drawing nutrition from it.As with a number of other mental and emotional health disorders, research has found elevated rates of comorbidity between addiction and eating disorders. In other words, there’s evidence that addiction occurs at a higher-than-average rate among people who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia compared to the rate of addiction among the population at large.
Specifically, research has shown that approximately 50 percent of those who have suffered from eating disorders have exhibited symptoms of substance use disorder in the past while individuals suffering from addiction are 11 times more likely to either have suffered from or develop an eating disorder. Thus, many have begun to wonder what this elevated rate of comorbidity could mean. Does an eating disorder make a person more likely to develop a substance abuse problem? Or, alternatively, does a substance abuse problem make a person more likely to develop an eating disorder?
On the surface, one of the most noticeable similarities between addiction and eating disorders is the fact that both disorders center on compulsive behaviors. However, evidence hasn’t yet confirmed that one directly leads to the other. Since both disorders have a wide variety of potential contributors — e.g. environmental, social, biological, situational — it follows that both disorders could be triggered by a similar source. But it’s important to note that the development of an eating disorder doesn’t guarantee the development of a substance abuse problem.
Choose Just Believe Recovery in Carbondale for Your Recovery Needs
To learn more about the support we offer for eating disorders and addiction, or for more information about our dual-diagnosis treatment program in Carbondale, PA, call Just Believe Recovery today at 877-871-3356.