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The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Eating Disorders

The word “satiate” comes from the Latin root satis, which means enough and implies a capability for being fully satisfied. But for many individuals who experience eating disorders or chemical dependency, their hunger is never sated because they are always looking towards something more.

Whether that be an instant gratification sense of fulfillment in pleasures like drugs (chemical) & food(organic), an image within themselves reflecting perfection instead. However, what is the relationship between eating disorders and substance abuse?

What are the reasons behind this quest for perfection? Do you ever feel like there is no end in sight, and nothing will make your life better? Do you want to let go of all those negative feelings? This article will help you understand what that feeling is and what causes it.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders are a wide variety of problems that some people experience while using drugs. DSM-5 recognizes ten classes, including alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, and opioids.

The manual of the disorder is very clear in characterizing it as either occurring due to substances or their use.

The second group is more specific about which types can cause these disorders, including alcohol, caffeine, etc. while distinguishing between withdrawal symptoms from quitting drinking/taking drugs and physical manifestation caused by addiction.

The Basics of Eating Disorder

We all need to eat. Our bodies rely on food for many essential things, like carrying out critical functions and staying alive.

When people drastically change the way they feed themselves. Making it difficult or impossible for their bodies’ natural processes of digestion & absorption – eating disorders may be at play.

There is a wide range of disorders that can be categorized as eating disorders, but these are some common ones that the Eating Disorder Foundation have identified:


Anorexia is a serious eating disorder that impacts the way one eats and digests food. Those suffering from anorexia do not eat regular meals on any schedule.

They may even be forced into compulsive behavior, such as not eating when hungry or only consuming foods low in calories like popcorn which has no nutritional value.

By doing this, people will lose weight quickly, but it also risks their physical health because nutrients cannot get absorbed efficiently if there isn’t enough body fat for them to adhere to.


Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by the sufferer’s refusal to eat despite feeling hungry.

They might use vomiting, laxatives, or both to limit calories and ensure their body weight remains sub-par no matter what they put into it. An individual with this illness will often restrict all food except water for prolonged periods.


Those suffering from this disease will eat without control and proceed with purging. These individuals often have trouble realizing when they have had enough or eaten too much because their minds are focused on something else entirely-the idea of eliminating all traces of what was just consumed (through vomiting).

Compulsive Eating

People with this disorder experience a conflict between their desires and the reality of eating. They may find themselves in an uncomfortable position.

But will not be able to release excess food from their bodies through vomiting or diarrhea as is typical among people suffering from obesity-related illnesses.

The Risk Factors of Eating Disorders

Factors such as mental health and body image play a significant role in developing eating disorders.

It has been seen across all types of these conditions, though it is likely that each type shares some common contributors to development with others aside from just those two factors listed here:

Mental Health

Many different factors could lead someone into a state of depression. These include mental health risk factors such as anxiety, low self-esteem, and trauma like childhood sexual abuse or other forms of violence in the home environment, which causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Social stresses may also come into play when we experience pressure from peers to behave in specific ways.

Body Image

Eating disorders are a serious issue that often starts in childhood. Risk factors related to eating behaviors and body image include weight-related teasing, critical comments about one’s size or shape.

Having an unhealthy relationship with food from early on, like becoming obsessed with dieting when small enough for parents’ whimsical foods (which could be why so many of us develop tendencies towards bulimia).

There can also be problems such as not being able -or never gaining the courage to eat certain things because others might judge you.

The Link Between Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Some people with eating disorders use drugs to feel better because the illness often leaves them feeling out-of-sorts, upset, and defeated. A hit of substances can bring about a little relief in what seems confusing life that is also tough on your mental health.

The effects of some drugs on those with eating disorders may seem appealing at first, but these same substances could also make it harder for them to resist complaining about feeling hungry. The use or abuse, in this case, is not because people want more calories than usual.

Rather their bodies have become so dependent upon certain medications that without them, there will be stomach cramps and other signs telling you your Anorexia has come back full force.

People who have eating disorders are less likely to become addicted if they abuse substances. For example, someone with an addiction to alcohol might drink too much and then try vomiting it back up before having another sip.

The same goes for people who binge on food: once their stomachs start cramping or feel full from consuming too many calories in one sitting, these individuals can just vomit those extra nutrients instead.

There is a common misconception that alcohol should not be consumed by people who have eating disorders.

However, it has been shown in research from The Seattle Times to help those with anxiety-related disorders manage their symptoms of anorexia and bulimia through relaxation or distraction tactics when they would otherwise become too scared to eat alone at home.

People with eating disorders are often addicted to substances. Especially, when the reasons they give for their addiction relate to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

People with eating disorders are often so convinced that their drug and alcohol habits are useful to them, they fail to see the harm in what they are doing.

A person who has an addiction will try anything just for another fix, whether it is food, money, sex, etc., but this does not make his situation any better as long as he keeps chasing after more.

When people are addicted to substances, it can be challenging to see the changes that occur in their brains.

It means an issue could develop, and they may think there is no problem at all until problems increase significantly with speed despite maintaining total control over usage up until relapse-point.

End The Cycle

People suffering from eating disorders and addiction are fighting against a potentially deadly combination of conditions that can cause permanent damage to the body if not treated as soon as possible.

For the most effective treatment, people with co-occurring disorders should seek dual diagnosis treatment like sober coaching in Florida offered by trusted sober companion services.

Content Provided By Vanguard Behavioral Health – rehab Tucson

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