Eating Disorders

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Co-Occurring Eating Disorders & Substance Abuse Treatment

Eating orders are very common in the United States. More than 20 million women and 10 million men have experienced some form of eating disorder during their life, research studies show. This complex mental health condition is influenced by psychological factors – usually an obsession with bodyweight – that result in unhealthy eating habits that get more serious over time.

Genetics, personality traits and cultural influences have all been shown to contribute to eating disorders. People who are neurotic, impulsive or have perfectionist tendencies have a high risk of developing an eating disorder. The cultural pressure to be thin that is prevalent in society and the media also plays a large role.

Those with eating disorders may exhibit a variety of symptoms. However, most include the severe restriction of food intake, eating binges, or purging behaviors such as vomiting or over-exercising. In severe cases, eating disorders can cause serious physical harm such as heart attacks, rectal problems, organ failure and even death.

Eating disorders and substance abuse

People with eating disorders are at high risk to develop substance abuse disorders, according to a study by the National Eating Disorders Association. Their research found that about half of all people with eating disorders abused alcohol or drugs, which is five times the rate of the general population. Other findings include:

eating disorders empty plate

The most common substances used by people with eating disorders include alcohol, heroin, amphetamines, cocaine and tobacco. In certain situations, someone with an eating disorder will restrict their intake of food and calories to offset the calories from alcohol. Known as “drunkorexia,” this is most prevalent among college-aged young women. By drinking heavily with limited food, the risk of alcohol poisoning is high,

Eating disorders and substance abuse disorders also share risk factors such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. 

How we treat eating disorders at Harbor Village

Overcoming an eating disorder can take time – you have to develop a new, healthy relationship with food, all while continuing to eat every day just to stay alive. At Harbor Village, our trained clinicians have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating eating disorders and as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. We understand it’s important to identify the underlying cause of your issues and develop a recovery plan that fits your specific needs.

Our team of clinicians and therapists take a well-rounded, holistic approach to help you overcome your eating disorder, with a dual diagnosis treatment plan that addresses any co-occurring mental health disorders that may contribute to the problem. Our program includes nutrition education, medical monitoring, and medications as we help you normalize your eating patterns so you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Types of eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa: People with anorexia constantly check their weight and restrict their diet, believing they are too heavy even if they are actually underweight to the point of being unhealthy. They sometimes hoard food and show other signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to their eating habits. Anorexia affects more women than men, and it often begins during the teenage or young adult years. Signs of anorexia include:

  • Very restrictive eating habits
  • Unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight
  • Constant, relentless efforts to be thin
  • Severely underweight for their height and age
  • In denial about being underweight
eating disorders and substance abuse

Bulimia nervosa: People with bulimia usually maintain a relatively normal weight rather than becoming drastically overweight or underweight. They often eat large amounts of food quickly, until they become over-full, but they feel they have no control over their behavior and cannot stop eating. After this binge eating, bulimics purge to relieve the discomfort they feel from overeating. Signs of bulimia nervosa include:

Binge eating: People who binge eat consume a lot of food in a short time. More than simple over-indulging, it is characterized by repeated, uncontrollable overeating. It is one of the most common eating disorders and affects people of all ages, although it most often occurs among teenagers and young adults. People with this disorder are often overweight, which can increase the risk of medical problems related to excess weight. Signs of a binge eating disorder include:

Other eating disorders Pica (eating non-food substances such as dirt, soap, paper, chalk), Night Eating Syndrome (eating heavily late at night), Rumination (regurgitating food that has been swallowed then chewing it again), and Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake (extremely picky eating to avoid certain tastes, smells, textures and colors).

Call Harbor Village today to learn more about how we can help with your eating disorder

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