Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

A person who struggles with eating disorders may also be struggling with some form of substance abuse. In fact about half of those dealing with some kind of eating disorder engage in some kind of drug or alcohol abuse, leading to addiction. And of those who suffer from chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol, about ⅓ have at some point suffered from an eating disorder.

Substances Commonly Abused

Most commonly people with eating disorders engage in drug abuse with the following substances:

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

These sorts of co-occuring disorders may reveal themselves in either order, either disease may come first.  While there are many factors that contribute to susceptibility to these disorders, some of the most common shared characteristics are:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Family history
  • Depression
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Antagonism with one’s own body
  • Relationships involving a struggle for control
  • Impulsivity


Co-occurring Disorders Should Be Treated Together

Neither disease cares how convenient it is being and sometimes one rears it’s head just after the other’s treatment, often pulling addicts back to their substance of choice, or pushing a person suffering from bulimia into a binging when they haven’t for a while. You have to treat the two together to gain any kind of success against them. Unfortunately, despite their commonality of risk factors, the means of treatment for these two disorders are very different. Since the goal of ending substance abuse is total abstention which is not an option for eating disorders. There is also a disjunct of self identification. For substance abuse, acceptance of a personal identity of an addict is an important step to recognizing and preventing problematic behaviors. On the other hand, eating disorders are often tied to negative self image identities, so rather than embracing the intrinsic identity related to the disorder, the individual must learn to reject that identifier and construct a new healthier perception of self by identifying and reinforcing their positive qualities.


At FHE inpatient drug rehab South Florida detox and wellness center, we offer mental health rehab services as well as our drug and alcohol detox so we can effectively treat both chemical dependency and mental health disorders. Call us today to learn more about our programs (844) 299-0618.

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