Alcohol Abuse and Eating Disorder

Eating disorder has been found to have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Combined with alcohol abuse, just how deadly can it get?

Eating is very much part of our culture and everyday life. Sure, it offers gastronomic pleasures but more importantly, it supplies fuel to our bodies so that we can go about our daily activities and live our lives. We eat for sustenance and survival. However, eating does not only involve physically ingesting food. It is a complex process that also involves a person’s mental and psychological state. 

Bad taste in the mouth

Eating in itself is good as it is a necessary tool for survival.  However, our perspective on eating and its perceived effects on the body is what’s causing eating to take a sinister turn. For example, if you have distressing or negative thoughts about body image, then you’ll see eating as a roadblock to achieving your perceived image of a normal body shape or size. So you go into extremes: binge, purge or sometimes, both. 

Eating disorder is described as a ” range of psychological conditions that cause unhealthy eating habits to develop. They might start with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape.”  

You may eat much less or much more than you need but either way,  it is affecting the body’s ability to get the right nutrition to function properly.  Eating disorders can be fatal as they can lead to organ malfunction and can eventually cause death. It can also negatively affect mental, psychological, and social health. 

Here are 3 of the most common eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia heavily restrict their food or calorie intake to lose weight. They have a distorted body image,  often thinking they are overweight when in fact, they are dangerously underweight.  People with this disorder either avoid alcohol entirely or binge drink in place of eating to suppress their appetite.  They have the ability to extremely binge and purge. 

  • Bulimia nervosa

People with bulimia nervosa are not extremely overweight or underweight- in fact, they may be of normal weight. However, bulimia nervosa is characterized by a strong need to take in large quantities of food. These episodes may, later on, cause extreme guilt or shame, creating an urge to eliminate the food. Purging then occurs making the person do fasting or excessive exercising or use laxatives to induce vomiting. 

  • Binge Eating Disorder

As the name suggests, binge eating disorder still involves eating large amounts of food but unlike bulimia nervosa, people with this disorder do not experience purging urges. They still feel guilt, shame, and disappointment but they don’t feel the need to vomit or eliminate what they ate.

The Meat of the Matter

While the real cause of eating disorders is still yet to be determined, most experts agree that eating disorders are complicated illnesses that stem not from a single cause but from a complex interaction of biological, psychological, and environmental factors

Mental health also plays a role as well as social stressors, like peer pressure and bullying. There is also the impossible beauty standard imposed by society that you have to look a certain way in order to be deemed beautiful.  These external pressures can lead to a distorted body image causing unhealthy and dangerous eating habits.

Terrible Two 

Eating disorders can also co-occur with another condition and unfortunately, this happens quite frequently.  Research shows that nearly 50 percent of people with an eating disorder are also abusing drugs and/or alcohol. This is quite alarming but here are a good number of reasons that will explain why these two often go together.

First,  eating and excessive drinking can be regarded as a coping mechanism as both can be used to numb out negative emotions caused by trauma, anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. 

Second, eating disorders and alcohol abuse disorders affect the brain similarly.  

Dopamine, which is heavily involved in feelings of satisfaction, undergoes abnormal release patterns in the presence of alcohol¹. In individuals with eating disorders, irregular amounts of dopamine influence the obsessive feelings of desire and dread surrounding food and one’s body. As a result, the reward system, in which dopamine is a primary neurotransmitter, becomes altered and functions in a manner that makes it difficult to break free from addictive or disordered habits without experiencing very negative emotional states. 

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness but people are more likely to die from eating disorders if they also abuse alcohol. 

Eat, Drink and Heal

Co-occurring disorders like alcohol abuse and eating disorders are complex conditions. Self-medication is definitely not the way to go about it. Like any serious condition,  it is best to seek help from experts and medical professionals like Heal@Home.

Heal @Home carries the gold standard when it comes to alcohol recovery. Heal@Home offers a revolutionary approach to traditional alcohol rehab and provides access to individualized therapy and medication treatment for alcohol use disorder. Programs include sessions with Certified Addiction Counselors, Nurses, and Case Managers to handle every aspect of recovery so you can be assured of a professional and personalized treatment every step of the way. 

Download Heal@Home’s exclusive app for discreet, safe treatment. Healing and recovery start with you.

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