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Bulimia and Addiction

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a woman needs bulimia and addiction treatmentStatistics show that individuals with eating disorders use alcohol or drugs at a rate five times higher than the general population. These two conditions can put people at risk for several psychological and physical problems. Treating co-occurring addiction and bulimia may require inpatient treatment, such as the dual diagnosis treatment programs offered by Vertava Health. This connection seems to be more prevalent in binge eating and purging patterns observed in those who have bulimia rather than the restriction of food intake seen in anorexia nervosa. If you are suffering from an eating disorder like bulimia and addiction, it’s time to seek treatment. Call Vertava Health today at 888.601.8693.

What Is Bulimia?

An eating disorder can affect people of any age, race, gender, weight, or body type. Experts estimate that at least 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S alone. There are eleven different types of eating disorders. Bulimia is one of the most common and most well-known. Females are more likely to have bulimia than males, and this condition often begins in the late teens or early adulthood.

Bulimia is an eating pattern of binging and purging. People with bulimia have a loss of control when eating and often consume abnormally large amounts of food in one sitting. They will then use different methods, such as forced vomiting, exercising excessively, or using laxatives or stimulants to rid themselves of the food (calories) they ingested.

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

It can be more challenging to identify a person with bulimia because this type of eating disorder doesn’t always lead to excessive weight loss. Sufferers are usually either overweight or average weight. However, certain signs and symptoms may be obvious when a person has bulimia.

Here are a few red flags that friends and loved ones may pick up on:

  • Complaining about being fat
  • Excessive worry about becoming overweight
  • Negative body image
  • Eating substantial amounts of food in one sitting, especially foods the sufferer may consider off-limits
  • Not wanting to eat in public or around others
  • Going to the bathroom for long periods of time right after eating or during meals

Co-Occurrence of Bulimia and Addiction

Even though research has found that nearly half of all people with an eating disorder also use drugs or alcohol, this co-occurrence is frequently overlooked. Addressing one disorder and not the other can lead to an endless cycle of rehab hopping and relapse. It is crucial to recognize that where there are eating disorders, there’s often addiction and vice versa.

The painful feelings of low self-esteem and distorted body image can increase the chance that someone with an eating disorder will turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to numb the pain. Experts say that the substances most frequently used by individuals with eating disorders include:

  • Alcohol
  • Laxatives
  • Emetics
  • Diuretics
  • Amphetamines
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine

Several things can heighten the risk of developing or worsening a substance use disorder when someone has bulimia. Research has found that patients diagnosed with bulimia often report alcohol consumption as a strong trigger for binge eating. Other studies also suggest that individuals with bulimia report more negative substance use-related consequences.

While not as common, addiction can also precede an eating disorder. Researchers believe this is primarily because eating disorders and addiction stem from a similar place and share many of the same causes. There could also be other scenarios to consider. An individual may develop an eating disorder when their appetite is suppressed through the use of substances. There is also the risk of developing an eating disorder while in recovery from addiction due to weight gain.

Treatment for Bulimia and Addiction

In order to overcome these conditions, the root cause of each disorder needs to be addressed and treated. Because bulimia and addiction frequently co-occur, many rehab facilities like Vertava Health offer treatment that is tailored to address both conditions at the same time. This method is preferred, as integrated programs provide a much higher rate of full recovery and less chance for relapse.

Together, these two disorders are challenging yet possible to treat. Many of the same strategies used for eating disorders are applied to substance use and addiction.

A few types of treatment offered by Vertava Health that prove beneficial for both bulimia and substance addiction include:

  • Individual psychotherapy that emphasizes building self-esteem
  • Family counseling
  • Group therapy sessions with others who have a dual diagnosis of an eating disorder and substance use or addiction
  • Medication-assisted therapy (MAT)
  • Holistic treatments like yoga, meditation, acupuncture, yoga, or massage

Relapse from both substance addiction and bulimia is fairly common. Between 30 to 50 percent of individuals who eliminate bulimia behaviors will begin again, and roughly half of those that recover from a drug or alcohol addiction will have at least one moment of weakness and start using again. This is why early and complete treatment is vital.

Seek Support at Vertava Health

Both addiction and bulimia are dangerous in their own ways. When the two co-occur, the risks are far more severe. If you or a loved one is struggling with one or both of these conditions, there are several treatment options available to consider. Many of the Vertava Health rehab facilities offer treatment programs for co-occurring disorders like bulimia and substance addiction.

Reach out to one of our highly trained Vertava Health treatment specialists at 888.601.8693 today so that we can help you or your loved one decide on the best treatment option.