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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

06-17-19 | By

The Connection Between Alcohol Abuse and Eating Disorders

Neither alcohol abuse nor eating disorders have a single cause, but are conditions which can be influenced by a wide range of factors – some external and environmental, and others internal and mental. There are always things in life that we can’t control, traumatic events that simply happen to us out of nowhere. And even though we did nothing to bring these things upon ourselves, they can often lead to serious consequences for our mental and physical health. Our personal insecurities, loss of a partner, death of a loved one, failing at something that was important to us and negative thoughts about the future are just some of the reasons of depression, which can then drive people towards either alcohol abuse, or an eating disorder. But what is the correlation between the two? And how do we stay afloat? Here are some of the answers to these questions.

The Connection Between Alcohol Abuse and Eating Disorders

Even though these conditions seem completely different on the surface, there are some things that bind them. For instance, the root of both these conditions lies in the stress, anxiety, trauma or depression one may experience. When a person can’t manage certain emotions and mental issues, they will reach for anything that may calm them down, improve their mood and help them feel better, if only for a short period of time, no matter the consequences. This makes both alcohol abuse and eating disorders a coping mechanism for these negative emotions. Plus, even though alcohol is very caloric, but without any nutritional value, those with eating disorders might choose to drink it for several reasons. Some will do it do induce vomiting or suppress their appetite, while others will do it to alleviate some of the guilt they feel for either eating or not eating, depending on the eating disorder.

Anorexia and Alcohol abuse

Since anorexia is based on restricting calorie intake, skipping meals and, eating as little as possible, managing these restrictions can be difficult and lead to stress and anxiety. In order to lessen the anxiety, anorexic people will sometimes reach for alcohol. In addition, drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is an easy way for them to induce vomiting and even dehydration, so that they lose more weight as there is less water in their bodies. Alcohol can also reduce a person’s appetite, which is another reason for anorexic people to drink it. And since alcohol contains a lot of empty calories, people with anorexia will often avoid eating during the day, since they know that they’ll drink in the evening. However, due to its lack of nutrients, alcohol makes things much worse for these people, since it leads to malnourishment very quickly, making their body weaker and causing them to get sick.

The correlation between anorexia and alcohol is a very common one, especially among college girls, although the condition doesn’t really choose a gender and can happen in men as well as women. In fact, this connection is so common that it even has an informal name: “drunkorexia.” And even though it doesn’t sound that serious when you call it by this slang name, this combination of conditions is a very dangerous one and needs to be treated properly. The best way is to treat both conditions at the same time. It should start with alcohol detox. To do this safely, one needs to find a facility where there are professionals who can help with alcohol withdrawal. After the alcohol detox, it’s best to seek an expert who can recommend an individual treatment program for containing both disorders.

Bulimia and Alcohol abuse

Unlike with anorexia, a person with bulimia will often eat excessively and then throw up. This is where alcohol can come in handy. However, when your stomach is full of other food, you may need larger amounts of alcohol to facilitate vomiting, which can lead to alcohol poisoning. Among other health risks, alcohol poisoning can cause deeper depression and make a person consider suicide. Aside from being able to vomit more easily, somebody with bulimia might also drink to numb the feeling of shame or guilt the condition can cause, as well as to put their mind off the thoughts of the roots of the problem, such as the stressful or traumatic events that might be the reason for developing the eating disorder and the substance abuse issue.

Binge Eating and Alcohol Abuse

When talking about eating disorders, the most frequent one in adults is probably binge eating. Binge eating usually occurs as a reaction to a psychological disorder a person may not even be aware of. What binge eating and drinking alcohol have in common is that they both get the body to release dopamine, which is the happiness hormone. So, when eating and drinking alcohol, you can experience joy and pleasure momentarily. However, after the initial happiness, people’s mood worsens and they start feeling shame and self-loathing, which can then make them eat and drink more. In the case of this combination, other than treating alcohol dependence and the eating disorder, it’s important to treat the underlying psychological disorder as well.

If you or somebody close to you have an eating disorder or are dealing with alcohol abuse, talk to somebody you trust and seek the help you need. The worst thing you can do is to think that the problem will disappear on its own and to keep it all to yourself.

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