The Link Between Eating Disorders and Addiction 

By Published On: February 24th, 2022Categories: Drug Addiction, Drug Detox

It is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW), a week sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) to promote hope for those in recovery from the disease and their loved ones while offering resources that can help save lives. Many people with an eating disorder struggle with anxiety and depression, which can lead them to misuse substances to mask their physical or emotional pain. Gaining knowledge on the link between eating disorders and drug or alcohol addiction is essential to finding recovery from both conditions. 

How Eating Disorders and Addiction Co-Occur 

As with substance use disorders (SUDs), an eating disorder often begins as a mild habit that quickly escalates and becomes uncontrollable. Researchers are beginning to recognize a connection between SUDs and eating disorders. 

According to Social Work Today, almost 50% of people struggling with an eating disorder are also misusing drugs or alcohol, and sometimes both. This rate of use is five times more than what is seen among the general population. Also, about 35% of alcohol or drug users have eating disorders compared to 3% of the general population. 

Individuals who experience both an eating disorder and an SUD often use one to cope with the other. For example, someone may use highly restrictive eating habits to feel more in control when struggling with an addiction or vice versa, which can create a dangerous cycle where one co-occurring disorder encourages the other. 

Shared Risk Factors and Characteristics  

According to Vertava Health, the characteristics of those experiencing an eating disorder and SUD coincide. The risk factors that can lead an individual to a substance use disorder are also characteristics often associated with eating disorders, such as: 

  • Being susceptible to messages from media and advertisements 
  • Being subject to unhealthy social pressure from peers 
  • Being exposed to unhealthy parental behaviors 
  • History of trauma including neglect, sexual assault or harassment, physical abuse and assault, and emotional abuse 
  • Extreme preoccupation and compulsive behavior 
  • Cravings, rituals, and secretiveness about behavior  

You Can Recover 

In recent celebrity news, Brian Cuban, brother of the Shark Tank host and billionaire Mark Cuban, spoke about his experience battling both substance use and eating disorders. In an interview with Treatment Magazine Cuban said:  

“There is a 50% correlation between eating disorders and substance use disorder. Of course, we know the way substance use disorder works. You can certainly get yourself in the mindset that you have to have the substance to survive, right? Especially with opioids, because you go into withdrawal. You truly believe you need to do it to survive.” 

Cuban entered treatment and tells Treatment Magazine he is now is recovery. 

Those who experience a co-occurring eating disorder and SUD are undergoing a two-fold challenge. As we take the time to acknowledge and raise awareness around NEDAW, let’s always keep in mind the importance of recovery in all areas of one’s mental health. At New England Recovery Center, we provide individualized and personalized care that helps clients with any number of co-occurring disorders.  

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol misuse or a co-occurring disorder, call New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab.  

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