Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorder have captured national attention in recent years. While millions of Americans try to lose weight through diets, exercise programs and cleanses, the South Carolina Department of Mental Health estimates that one out of every 200 American women meets the criteria for anorexia, while two to three out of every 100 suffer from bulimia. Although eating disorders primarily affect females, the obsession with weight and dieting is becoming increasingly common in boys and men.
Compulsive, disordered eating behaviors have been associated with a high risk of substance abuse. People who have a distorted body image and a low self-esteem often turn to binge drinking, illicit drug use or prescription drugs as a way to cope with painful feelings. Stimulants like cocaine or meth are frequently used to promote weight loss or to purge unwanted calories after an eating binge. Integrated treatment programs offer hope for recovery to individuals who struggle with eating disorders and addiction.
In a culture that’s obsessed with body weight and physical appearance, diet and exercise often become a focal point for anxiety and fear. Eating disorders have become disturbingly widespread in the United States, affecting 24 million people in every age group, according to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders. Statistics on eating disorders indicate that the problem is still not being adequately treated:
Males and females of all ages can develop disordered eating patterns. However, the Eating Disorders Coalition estimates that over 90 percent are female adolescents. Anorexia nervosa is one of the leading causes of death among young women and girls, with a mortality rate of 20 percent. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, low blood pressure, and other severe side effects of eating disorders can lead to chronic health problems and death, even in teens and young adults.
If you or someone you love has developed harmful diet or exercise habits, you may have an eating disorder. Substance abuse, combined with severe dietary restrictions or compulsive eating habits, is one of the major warning signs. Professional intervention may be necessary to help you or your loved one regain control of your life and prevent serious damage to your health.
How do you know when a strict diet or a rigorous exercise program turns into an actual eating disorder? It’s not always easy to tell. By some estimates, 40 to 60 percent of teenagers have tried to lose weight, and adults are equally obsessed with weight loss in the United States. Understanding the signs of common eating disorders will alert you to this serious problem in yourself or someone close to you.
Not everyone who has self-destructive eating patterns meets the diagnostic criteria for one of the common eating disorders. Eating disorders not otherwise specified is a category of dysfunctional behaviors that fall outside of the typical patterns. If you feel fear, guilt or shame about the way you eat, it’s important to seek help from compassionate professionals who understand these complicated, serious disorders.
Mood disorders and anxiety disorders are common among people who live with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. According to the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, alterations in neurotransmitters like serotonin, a brain chemical that promotes emotional stability, are responsible for both eating disorders and depression or anxiety. On the other hand, the chemical changes brought on by self-starvation, purging and bingeing cause imbalances in the brain that affect your moods and emotions.
Low self-esteem and a distorted body image are often at the heart of an eating disorder. No matter how much weight you lose or how thin you become, you may always perceive yourself as fat. People with eating disorders live with a sense of anxiety and failure about their weight, even when they become dangerously emaciated.
Eating disorders and substance abuse overlap in several significant ways. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University notes that chemical addiction and eating disorders arise from many of the same sources and display some of the same characteristics:
On a more hopeful, positive note, people with eating disorders and substance abuse may benefit from an addiction treatment plan that integrates care for both conditions. Some of the same therapeutic strategies that are used to treat eating disorders may also be applied to substance abuse to promote a complete recovery:
Rebuilding your self-image and creating a more satisfying future takes time and effort. With the help of experienced professionals at a Dual Diagnosis treatment facility, you can overcome addiction and build a happier, more rewarding life. With exclusive Dual Diagnosis treatment centers in Tennessee and California, Foundations Recovery Network is uniquely prepared to help you recover from eating disorders and chemical dependence. When you’re ready to reach out for help, we’re waiting to offer hope. Call our intake team to get the process started today.
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