Unfortunately, there are a number of physical, mental, and environmental factors and conditions that can lead to addiction. One of these is often an eating disorder. While eating disorders and addictions are two different conditions, the two share some similarities and sometimes even intertwine. In some cases, a person’s eating disorder may even lead them toward addiction to drugs or alcohol.
What is an Eating Disorder?
According to the American Psychological Association, an eating disorder is a condition in which a person has abnormal eating habits that can threaten their health or life. This is especially true if a person’s concerns over their weight or habits are taken to extreme levels. While it is normal for anyone to worry about their weight and diet, those with eating disorders are essentially consumed by their eating habits and concerns. They often become entirely preoccupied by these concerns and habits, overshadowing all other concerns in their daily lives.
Common Types of Eating Disorders
Although there are many types of eating disorders and abnormal eating habits, these are the three major types of eating disorders:
A person living with anorexia nervosa typically has a distorted body image. They usually see themselves as overweight despite often being dangerously underweight. Because a person with anorexia nervosa sees themselves as overweight, they will starve themselves and/or exercise compulsively, which can have a number of serious effects on their overall health and wellbeing.
A person living with bulimia nervosa will typically eat large or even normal quantities of food during a short period of time and then proceed to rid their body of the food as quickly as possible. Usually, those living with bulimia nervosa will force themselves to vomit, abuse laxatives, or exercise excessively in order to purge their bodies of food quickly.
Binge Eating Disorder
A person living with a binge eating disorder will often experience episodes where they are unable to control their eating. In doing so, they will consume an excess of food. However, unlike a person living with bulimia nervosa, a person with a binge eating disorder will not try to induce vomiting or exercise to burn calories; they will instead continue to eat – even after they become full.
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How Does a Person Develop an Eating Disorder?
Anyone can develop an eating disorder. It is not specific to a certain population. In general, eating disorders develop as a result of an individual’s relationship with themselves (body image) or to food. Because of this, the causes of eating disorders are often unique to an individual. However, there are usually some similarities between two or more people with the same kind of eating disorder.
How Does an Eating Disorder Affect a Person?
An eating disorder of any kind can have a variety of negative effects on a person’s health and daily life. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can lead to malnourishment, dizziness, confusion, and chronic vitamin deficiency, which can lead to a number of diseases. An eating disorder like binge eating can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
Aside from the effects on a person’s health, eating disorders can also have a negative impact on a person’s daily life. It may impact their relationships, finances, occupation, education, and more depending on the severity and situations.
What is Addiction?
According to the American Psychological Association, addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by a person using a substance or engaging in a behavior where the rewarding effects compel them to repeat the activity – despite negative consequences to themselves or others. A person can develop an addiction to a variety of substances and behaviors; however, many of the most common addictions are to substances like drugs and alcohol or behaviors like gambling and sex.
How Can an Eating Disorder Lead to Addiction?
Despite being different conditions with different diagnoses, eating disorders and addiction are similar disorders. Both disorders involve an individual who has an inability to exercise a reasonable amount of control or any control over their consumption of a substance or behavior. Whether it is food, opioids, alcohol, or gambling, both disorders center around a person who chases after something, a high or an ideal body image, without regard for the potential consequences.
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Developing an Eating Disorder or Addiction
Eating disorders and addictions also develop in similar ways. Most often, these conditions develop as a result of genetic and environmental factors along with emotional and sometimes even physical issues or trauma. Although any person can develop an addiction or eating disorder, a person’s genetic predisposition, current and past environments, trauma, and poor mental health can all make them more likely to develop one or both of these disorders.
How Eating Disorders and Addictions Overlap
In many cases, a person’s eating disorder can lead them to an addiction to a substance or behavior because that substance or behavior serves as a way for them to cope with their eating disorder. However, this can also work in the other direction. In either scenario, living with an eating disorder and addiction often creates a vicious and ultimately unhealthy cycle where one disorder feeds off the other while keeping both intact.
For example, a person living with anorexia may start using opioids as a method of treating mental and physical issues brought on by the disorder. But, after developing an opioid addiction, a person may continue to be anorexic as a means of feeling as though they have some level of control – since they cannot control their opioid consumption.
Treating Eating Disorders and Addiction
Because eating disorders and addictions are often intertwined, it is important for a person seeking recovery to treat both disorders simultaneously. If only one disorder is treated but not the other, they are more likely to relapse and return to the dangerous behavior of their eating disorder or addiction.
Searching for Local Addiction and Eating Disorder Treatment?
If you or a loved one is currently living with an addiction, eating disorder, or both, help is available in your area! At Knoxville Recovery Center, our team of medical and mental health professionals as well as addiction specialists offer a number of treatments and therapies to help those living with an eating disorder, addiction, or both. Contact us today to learn more!