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The Link Between Addiction and Eating Disorders

Man eats cake out of fridge, struggling with both addiction and eating disorder

Addiction and eating disorders can both be challenging and life-altering conditions. There are a lot of links between eating disorders and addiction. People with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder may turn to addiction for a sense of control or emotional relief. They can also develop addictions to substances such as alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. Many people with eating disorders also have co-occurring mental health issues. This can also lead to addiction. The connection between eating disorders and addiction is so strong that they are often treated together in a joint treatment plan. This is because it is often difficult to effectively treat one disorder without treating the other. Treatment focuses on helping the individual address the underlying issues causing the eating disorder and addiction. It also helps patients develop healthier coping skills to manage cravings and triggers for these conditions.

If you or a loved one has disordered eating, Vertava Health’s eating disorder treatment centers may be able to help. Contact us at 844.470.0410 today to learn more about our programs and how we can help you or your loved one on the path to recovery.

Definition of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are mental health issues characterized by an unhealthy relationship with food. They can cause:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Emotional distress
  • Health problems

Eating disorders typically involve a distorted body image, where individuals feel overweight or underweight. This is typically regardless of their actual size. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. People with these conditions have difficulty controlling their eating habits, leading to unhealthy behaviors.

These conditions can have serious physical and mental health consequences, so seeking treatment is important.

Types of Eating Disorders

There are three major types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa – Those suffering from anorexia have a distorted body image. They see themselves as overweight, although they are dangerously thin. Due to how they view their body, someone with anorexia will resort to starving themselves and exercising compulsively to lose weight.
  • Bulimia nervosa – When someone has bulimia, they will eat an excessive amount of food during a short period of time. They will then try to desperately rid their body of the food they eat by forcing themselves to vomit, abusing laxatives, or exercising too much.
  • Binge eating disorder – Similar to bulimia, those with binge eating disorder will frequently experience episodes of out-of-control eating. However, those with binge eating disorder will not try to purge their body of the food they eat. Someone struggling with binge eating will continue to eat even if they are uncomfortably full because of their distorted relationship with food.

Although these are the only three eating disorders clinically recognized, there are several other common eating habits that would be considered unhealthy.

The Link Between Addiction And Eating Disorders

Although they are two different diagnoses, research suggests that eating disorders and addiction often go hand in hand. People with an eating disorder may turn to addiction as a way to cope with the anxiety and stress they experience. They may also use substances such as drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes as a way to control their weight or in an attempt to feel better.

There are many common factors that may link addiction and eating disorders. Many people with an addiction also have co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which can lead to self-harming behaviors such as disordered eating. Similarly, people with an eating disorder can develop addictions in order to cope with the way they feel about themselves and their bodies.

No matter what the source of the link is, it is important to address both addiction and eating disorders in treatment.

What Causes Addiction And Eating Disorders?

Like many other aspects of addiction and eating disorders, the causes of these issues often mirror one another and include the following:

  • Genetics – Genetics can play a role in both addictions and eating disorders, as certain mental health issues may be passed down from parents to their children.
  • Environmental – Popular culture often glorifies extreme thinness and excessive alcohol consumption. These cultural messages can significantly affect the development of addiction and eating disorders. Peer pressure and the desire to fit in can also be powerful environmental triggers, particularly in teenagers and young adults.
  • Emotional and physical trauma – Left untreated, past emotional and physical traumas can often significantly influence present substance or food issues. Eating disorders and addiction are typically a symptom of a much deeper problem.
  • Emotional health – Suffering from any untreated mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, can make a person vulnerable to developing an addiction or an eating disorder.

While eating disorders and addictions affect all types of people, these factors can increase a person’s risk of developing either condition.

Heal From Eating Disorders and Addiction at Vertava Health

At Vertava Health, we understand the deep and complex connection between addiction and eating disorders. Our treatment centers are equipped to help individuals heal from both conditions with an individualized treatment plan. Our team of experienced clinicians and medical professionals treat the underlying issues of addiction and eating disorders. We also offer experiential therapy, such as yoga and music therapy, to help patients find healthy ways to cope with the difficult emotions of recovery.

No matter what type of addiction or eating disorder you or your loved one is dealing with, our team can help. Contact Vertava Health at 844.470.0410 today.