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Monday, March 7, 2016

A Deadly Mix: Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

eating disorders and substance abuseOnce again, the death of a celebrity has focused attention on the link between eating disorders, substance abuse, and death. The British documentary, Amy: The Girl Behind the Name, won an Oscar for Best Documentary at last week’s Academy Awards and restarted the buzz about singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse’s tragic death in 2011. Officially, the cause of death has been ruled accidental alcohol poisoning, but friends and family members point out that her long-time bulimia also played a part.

Self-Prescribed Solutions
Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are mental illnesses that often go undiagnosed until serious physical damage has resulted from them. While our cultural obsession with a thin body type is often blamed for these disorders, the frequency at which they are found in conjunction with alcohol or drug use suggests that other factors are in play. The National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University lists these characteristics that can be attributed to both eating disorders and substance abuse:

• Common risk factors like family history, imbalances in brain chemistry, stress & childhood abuse
• Intensification during stressful life changes
• Low self-esteem, anxiety & depression
• Pattern of compulsive behaviors
• Preoccupation with a substance or activity
• Chronic with possibly fatal consequences 

In addition, both may result from an attempt to “self-medicate.” Substance abuse often begins as a means to dull the pain caused by emotional trauma and feelings of inadequacy. Eating disorders may be perceived as a way to effectively control undesirable eating patterns, an imperfect body type, or unwanted sexual attention.

Effective Treatment Depends on Dual Diagnosis
Fortunately, when both substance abuse and eating disorders are recognized as co-occurring conditions, they can be treated at the same time, resulting in a good chance for successful recovery. The two conditions respond to some of the same therapies:

• Individual psychotherapy, behavior modification & group therapy
• Holistic modalities like meditation, acupuncture & yoga
• Stress & anxiety management
• Nutritional therapy
• Family counseling

Eating Disorder Treatment for Young Adults 
When disordered eating occurs in young adults who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, the combination can be deadly. If you suspect that a loved one is engaged in these self-destructive behaviors, don’t hesitate to call for help. Hope Academy’s credentialed addiction specialists will walk you through the admissions process, from intervention to rehab. Call 866.930.4673 to start your young adult on the road to a sober life with greater confidence and self-esteem.

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