A person who suffers from both substance abuse and an eating disorder has what is known as co-occurring conditions. Mental illness can affect how a person receives treatment for addiction because both disorders must be treated concurrently if he or she is to be successful in recovery.
The Prevalence of Dual Diagnoses
People who suffer from mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. Many start abusing substances in an attempt to self-medicate and relieve some of their symptoms. In other instances, the substance appears to be causing or exacerbating the mental illness.
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly half of all people who experience an eating disorder also engage in drug or alcohol abuse. What’s more, about 20% of those individuals meet the criteria for chronic alcohol abuse and addiction.
Any person with an eating disorder and addiction should seek help from an addiction treatment center that specializes in co-occurring disorders. Psychiatric conditions that exist in conjunction with an eating disorder can result in a higher risk of drug or alcohol abuse.
Treatment is available to help persons who suffer from an eating disorder and addiction. These individuals often need intensive programs that focus on addressing both problems concurrently.
What Is Bulimia?
Bulimia is an eating disorder in which a person binges or overeats, then uses a “purge” method such as inducing vomiting or taking laxatives to prevent weight gain. The person may also engage in other extreme weight control activities, such as exercising excessively. This approach to weight control can be detrimental to a person’s health and often contributes to anxiety or depression.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2016, 28.6 million people aged 12 or older reported using illicit drugs in the past month. Many people use these drugs only occasionally, but others are genuinely dependent on them. Furthermore, 16.3 million people aged 12 or older reported engaging in heavy alcohol use in the past month.
Hallmark warning signs of addiction include the use of drugs or alcohol as a means to avoid unpleasant physical withdrawal and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. People who suffer from addiction tend to engage in compulsive, substance-seeking behavior, and also try to conceal their condition from family and friends.
Signs of abuse also include the neglect of responsibilities at school, work, or home. A substance abuser may resort to borrowing or stealing to support their habit. And, they may continue to use despite conflicts in interpersonal relationships.
The use or abuse of drugs or alcohol does not necessarily indicate full-blown addiction. Moreover, if you or a loved one are abusing substances, it is vital to seek help before dependence and addiction develop.
Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis
As noted, co-occurring conditions most effectively treated in comprehensive programs that address both conditions simultaneously. Alcoholism and drug addiction can intensify the symptoms of eating disorders, leading the person into a cycle of mental illness and substance abuse that feels impossible to overcome.
Many people will need to undergo medical detox before they can be properly evaluated and treated. While it is usually best for a person with co-occurring conditions to be treated at an inpatient or partial hospitalization program, it is not always necessary.
The severity of either condition and potential risks and complications must be considered when determining the most suitable treatment. Outpatient programs are a possibility, especially if the person needs flexibility in their life to attend to school, work, or family needs.
Partial hospitalization programs, such as those offered by Harmony Treatment and Wellness, allow people to be supervised and treated during the day while they return to their homes at night. This program format may be helpful for people with an eating disorder as it allows health providers to have considerable control over what and when the client eats. They can also help to manage the side effects of substance withdrawal.
During treatment, a client should work with counselors who can help him or her manage the eating disorder. Other treatment options include behavioral therapy, which will teach a client better ways to cope with stress, cravings, and other problems. This makes it easier for the client to avoid engaging in unhealthy habits due to negative emotions.
A treatment program should also focus on getting the person back to a healthy weight if necessary. In doing so, this can help those who are dramatically underweight to relieve many unpleasant side effects, such as fatigue and dizziness.
Medication is another option for co-occurring disorders. Health providers may administer medication for problems, such as anxiety or depression, to help relieve emotional symptoms related to their disorders.
Getting Help for Co-Occurring Conditions
Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers integrated treatment programs intended to address mental health conditions such as bulimia and addiction. We use a comprehensive approach to physical and emotional wellness that has been designed to improve treatment outcomes and effectively promote long-lasting recovery.
If you or someone you love are suffering from bulimia and addiction, contact us today! We provide each client with the tools and support they need to recover fully and experience a healthier, more satisfying life!