24/7 Admissions Hotline (888) 277-3316

How Eating Disorders Relate to Substance Abuse

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 | By COH admin

Eating Disorders - Substance Abuse

Table Of Contents

For people who struggle with an eating disorder, sitting with your closest friends and family around a table spread with food is a terrifying prospect. It’s what makes this time of year, with a bevy of social holidays centered around eating and drinking, so tricky.

Interestingly enough, it’s also a tough time of year for those of us recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. So, we decided to take a closer look at the relationship between eating disorders and substance abuse.

Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse Share the Same Stigma

There is a considerable stigma associated with people who have an eating disorder. When you think of someone who is struggling with an ED, you might think of female celebrities that appear on the covers of gossip magazine with the words “deathly thin” or “disappearing.”

However, eating disorders don’t only affect women. Ten percent of cases detected are in males. Typically, the onset of eating disorders will start at a young age (12-25 years). According to Medical News Today, someone with anorexia has 5-8 times greater risk of dying early in life while bulimia doubles that risk. Furthermore, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder.

Somebody with anorexia has a 5.8-times greater risk of dying early, compared to healthy individuals with no eating disorders. Bulimia doubles the risk of premature death.

Spotting someone with an eating disorder an be more difficult than you think. Not everyone shows the same physical or psychological signs of disordered eating. While it might be physically apparent for some people (excessively thin), it’s also common to maintain a healthy body weight or sometimes even overweight.

So, What is the Actual Definition of an Eating Disorder?

eat·ing dis·or·der
ēdiNG diˈsôrdər/

noun: eating disorder; plural noun: eating disorders

  1. any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa).

Typically someone with an eating disorder seeks to control their food intake and their weight.  A skewed body image is one of the most common symptoms. For example, they will see themselves as “too fat” even if they are in fact, dangerously thin. They may participate in dangerous behaviors such as excessive exercise, binge eating (eating large amounts of food), purging behaviors (self-induced vomiting), use of laxatives or diuretics, and substance abuse.

There are different types of eating disorders which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).

Substance abuse like eating disorders, are influenced by genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Scientists estimate that genetic factors account for between 40 to 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction, including the effects of environment on gene expression and function. Multiple shared neurotransmitters are thought to be involved in both eating and substance use disorders. – National Eating Disorders Association

50% of people with an eating disorder (ED) are also abusing drugs and alcohol.

What Do Eating Disorders Have To Do With Substance Abuse?

There are various beliefs around whether we should consider eating disorders a type of substance abuse. Conflicting opinions aside, there is no denying the staggering similarities not to mention the rate of co-morbidity.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, nearly 50% of people with an eating disorder (ED) are also abusing drugs and alcohol. So, if someone has an eating disorder, they are 5 times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than someone without an ED.

Sarah* struggled with disordered eating and spoke of her relationship with drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.

“An eating disorder often goes hand in hand with drugs, alcohol, and depression,” she explained. “For me, my eating disorder came first, and I found that drugs – either prescription or otherwise – helped me get through the day. Just living became too much. It was too painful.”

Also, recovering addicts or alcoholics notoriously develop substitute addictions in the way of excessive exercise or orthorexia.

A little empathy and understanding go a long way.

How to Help Someone With an Eating Disorder

When you haven’t experienced addictive behavior first-hand, it’s really hard to understand it. Simply being around our loved ones is difficult. Especially when they seem consumed by their eating disorder or alcohol or heroin. It’s like watching the events of a natural disaster unravel right in front of you. The nightmare of watching something terrible happen and you want to scream out, but when you open your mouth, all that comes out is silence.

Show empathy. You may not understand exactly what they are going through but let them know you are here for them regardless.

A defining characteristic of addiction is isolation. When someone feels alone, they will find a way to make that feeling go away. A way to handle a world that seems unmanageable.

“I think the drugs helped me get through a deep dark hole that I had dug myself into,” Sarah said of her drug use and ED. “Drugs made my life more livable. It allowed me to connect and go out with friends without food being the main focus.”

Journalist Johann Yari has said that instead of taking a “tough love” stance with your loved one, that we should just take a “love” approach? Yari has also said that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection. We all just want to feel connected to someone or something, and for people struggling with eating disorders and substance abuse, they connect with their addiction.

So try this. Tell your loved one that you love them. Show empathy. You may not understand what they are going through but let them know you are here for support regardless. Then try to help figure out a plan. That could mean exploring treatment program options, going to a support group meeting, or making a doctor appointment to discuss next steps.

Overcoming Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Eating disorders are a very serious mental illness. It affects young women and men of all ages from all walks of life. However, it is treatable.

“I can’t believe where I am now and how different my life is. I never thought I’d feel fulfilled,” Sarah shared with us recently. She’s been recovered from disordered eating for five years. “I went for the easy things to give me that momentary feeling of being fulfilled. It’s crazy to look back at that time. I’m so grateful for where I am and the people that stuck by me.”

One response to “How Eating Disorders Relate to Substance Abuse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Don't Just Take Our Word For It

  • I'm from the suburbs of Chicago and have been in quite a few treatment centers. Circle of Hope is hands down the best and most comfortable rehab I have ever been in. Not to mention how caring and helpful all the staff are. The door to my counselors office was always open when ever you needed to talk. Everyone genuinely cares there and that’s what made it a special place for me. My four boys are going to get back their Sober and clean Dad back thanks to the help from Circle of Hope.

    Jeremy G.

  • Circle of hope changed my life!! Great food, great staff, wonderful place! Awesome to get to know the amazing clients and see that i was not alone in my recovery. I made friends for life in the short time i got to spend there. Not a better facility anywhere in my opinion!!The team of employees, from the Technicians all the way up to the Owner, all have a patient first mentality.

    Leto M

  • Going to treatment at circle of hope was one of the best programs Ive participated in, they helped me get my life back. They have amazing staff and over all good natured people. They focus on all aspects of counseling , case management, meetings, different types of therapy, including trauma, one on one counseling. This is coming from someone who has been traumatized and neglected. They helped me get to the root of the problem. Which most times can feel very uncomfortable but they provide groups that you participate in and communicate to other addicts and hear their life stories. They really are an organization of team working to help heal the conflicted minds of us addicts that we faced everyday. I would highly recommend this treatment program to anyone suffering from substance abuse or mental health.

    Skyy S

Tour Our Facility

Media Room

Kitchen Area

Media Center

Outdoor Patio

Outdoor Pool Area

Front of Housing

Latest Articles

  • substance abuse yoga therapy california

    6 Awesome Benefits of Yoga in Therapy for Substance Abuse

    Many addiction treatment centers have begun offering yoga as a complement to their traditional therapy for substance abuse. This ancient practice has shown to provide numerous benefits for individuals in drug therapy or alcohol therapy. Here are just

  • inpatient substance abuse treatment california

    5 Amazing Benefits of Inpatient Drug Rehab

    Many people wonder whether there are any benefits of an inpatient drug rehab over the outpatient program. Nevertheless, there are a plethora of reason to choose the inpatient drug rehab program. Patients who choose this form of treatment normally hav

  • substance abuse recovery skills california

    5 Simple Secrets To Totally Rocking Your Sober Freedom

    For some, the prospect of becoming sober is a scary one, as it forces them to confront their own existence and come to key realizations about their character. But your sober freedom can totally rock if you let it, so be sure to read on and learn more

  • rehab for spouse california

    How to Get Help for My Husband’s Drug Addiction

    If you’re living with a spouse who suffers from drug addiction, it’s normal to feel powerless in this situation. However, there are several things you can do to help your husband get the treatment he needs. The right substance abuse treat

  • dealing with depression

    Rehab Depression: How To Handle Bad Days

    Rehab depression is a common phenomenon for those who are in addiction recovery. Being away from your daily existence, as well as all of your friends and loved ones can be very difficult and cause you to feel as if you are slipping away from the rest

  • what to expect drug rehab

    What To Expect When Entering An Inpatient Treatment Facility

    Entering an inpatient treatment center can be a scary proposition for those with a substance abuse problem. Not only are they going to have to give up their drug of choice, but they’re going to have to meet new people, and share things with those p

  • questions about drug rehab

    5 Questions To Ask Rehab Centers

    Finding the right rehab centers when we are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse can be challenging. With the variety of services provided, level of treatment available, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. That’s why it is important to know exac

  • drug and alcohol detox los angeles

    Detox Methods: Inpatient vs Outpatient

    If you’ve decided to give up drugs or alcohol, then a rehab treatment program is often the best choice for beating addiction. But you have a choice: inpatient vs outpatient. Which one is better suited for your situation? We explain the details

  • anxiety and substance abuse rehab

    Anxiety & Substance Abuse

    Some anxiety comes naturally for everyone – awaiting test results, working against an impending deadline, or expecting to hear bad news. For most of us, this feeling dissipates when the moments pass and life goes on. People suffering from anxiety d

  • loved one needs addiction treatment

    How to Convince Someone to Go to Rehab

    Helping convince someone you care about to go to rehab can be a true challenge. When they don’t recognize the gravity of their situation, it can feel like you’re talking to a wall. However, once enough is enough and something has to chang


This time today, you or your loved one could be in treatment. Get help now!

We Are Here To Help 24/7

(888) 277-3316