Addiction and eating disorders often go together. One study found that people diagnosed with an eating disorder were five times more likely to have a substance use issue, and more than a third of people with substance use issues had eating disorders too. As with any co-occurring disorder, the relationship between addiction and eating disorders are complex and each makes the other worse.
Anorexia can lead to addiction.
Anorexia is characterized by eating very little and being very picky about what food you do eat. Sometimes a person with anorexia will vomit after eating so she doesn’t digest the calories. Since we have to eat to live, slowly starving is extremely unpleasant. You experience hunger pangs, stomach cramps, and lethargy. Many people with anorexia will use drugs, especially stimulants to deal with these symptoms. Stimulants mask hunger and give you more energy. The increased energy helps you burn calories faster and allows you to exercise more. These are all priorities for people with anorexia.
Addiction can lead to anorexia.
Studies show that about 14 percent of women with a substance use issue will develop an eating disorder. This can happen for several reasons. First, many drugs, especially stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine, suppress appetite, leading to rapid weight loss. Opioids sometimes cause nausea or loss of appetite as well. If you frequently use substances that suppress your appetite, you may develop an eating disorder. Second, substance use issues often lead to anxiety and depression, which can suppress appetite and lead to self-destructive behaviors.
Both anorexia and addiction may be caused by another issue.
Often, anorexia and addiction are symptoms of another problem. This problem may be a traumatic event, abuse, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other issues. Anorexia is typically about exerting control over oneself, even if it a destructive kind of control. It may be a symptom the patient feels like her environment is chaotic and threatening, in which case she may use substances as another way of dealing with that anxiety. Since anorexia and addiction drive each other, it’s crucial to treat both simultaneously with an integrated approach. Treating only one leaves the patient vulnerable to relapse. When researching treatment options, be sure to ask specifically if they have experience treating a dual diagnosis of anorexia and addiction.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or an eating disorder, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.