Thursday, April 18, 2019

Guest Post: Substance Abuse & Eating Disorders - Fighting a Dual Diagnosis

Many people probably know that conditions such as anorexia and bulimia and disordered eating can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Did you know that other factors can make such conditions

Unfortunately, using drugs or drinking excessively can make an eating disorder much worse.

Also unfortunately, many people grapple with both substance abuse and eating disorders at the same time.

Up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate five times higher than the general population,” says the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). In
fact, the combination of an eating disorder and substance abuse is so common that it goes by many terms, including dual diagnosis, co-occurring condition, or comorbidity.

People with just one of those conditions may find it difficult to treat. If they have both, treatment can be even more difficult, because the conditions may feed off each other. For example, people who feel ashamed or anxious about an eating disorder may get drunk to try to forget their problems.

Treatment may be difficult, but it’s necessary. It’s also available. People with eating disorders
and substance abuse problems may want to consider entering inpatient dual diagnosis
treatment centers.

While this name may sound intimidating, breaking it down is important. Similarly, while
treatment may sound daunting, addressing it step-by-step can make it seem less scary and
more accessible.

As their name indicates, inpatient centers require people to stay at designated facilities while
they receive treatment. This removes people from places, people, and circumstances that may
trigger their eating disorders and substance abuse. It allows people to press the reset buttons
on their lives.

Inpatient care is also medical care. Eating disorders and substance abuse can be deadly, but
treating them is also a delicate matter. Treatment requires people to make changes. Their
bodies may not be accustomed to such changes, so staying in inpatient facilities that offer
constant medical supervision may make treatment safer and more effective.

Therapy is also a vital component feature of dual diagnosis facilities. Therapists can help people
determine how eating disorders may influence substance abuse and vice versa. They can work
with clients to develop new eating patterns and new ways to cope with stress.

Dual diagnosis centers also introduce clients to other helpful people: their peers. Many inpatient
dual diagnosis treatment centers feature group therapy and support group meetings.

Professionals at the centers often find support groups that people can attend after they leave
their treatment facilities.

Peer assistance may be very helpful. After all, people in support groups and group therapy
sessions have experienced eating disorders, addiction, and recovery themselves, so they can
empathize with others in their groups. They may be less likely to judge because they’ve been
through the same things. They can ask for advice or give advice because they’ve been there
and done that.

Eating disorders and substance abuse are complex problems. Treating them is no less
complex. As with other issues of mental health, finding effective support may be challenging, but
it can make all the difference.

About the author: Pamela Zuber is a writer and editor interested in inpatient dual diagnosis
treatment centers and other aspects of mental health, as well as wellness, gender, human
rights, and many other topics.

The Contemporary Psychoanalysis Group, “Disordered Eating or Eating Disorder: What’s the
Difference?,” Psychology Today, February 23, 2014,

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders,”

Wade, Stephanie, Hunna Watson, Jemma Caswell, and Julie Purcell, “Peer Support for Eating
Disorders: A Pilot Open Trial of Peer Support for Children and Adolescents with Eating
Disorders,” Journal of Eating Disorders, November 24, 2014,


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