How Eating Disorders & Substance Use Disorders Can Actually Collide

Did you know that nearly 50 percent of people with an eating disorder also struggle with drug and alcohol abuse? Research also suggests 25 percent of people who enter treatment for an eating disorder also have a substance use disorder. It’s safe to say there is a strong link between eating disorders and addiction, but why is this the case?

Let’s explore the reasons why eating disorders and substance abuse go hand in hand, and why dual diagnosis rehab is necessary.

Connection Between Eating Disorders and Substance Use Disorders

The American Society of Addiction Medicine considers addiction to include drugs and alcohol, but also “process” addictions like food. This is the case because all types of addiction have the same effects on the brain.

Our brains have reward centers stimulated by certain behaviors, such as love, exercise and being praised. When the brain is stimulated by natural activities, it reinforces healthy habits. However, other factors can also stimulate these reward centers, like drugs, alcohol and food abuse (purging, binging, over-exercising, restricting). When the brain is stimulated by unnatural things, it creates an addictive cycle.

Over time, the brain stops functioning the way it was intended, believing that it can only be happy with drugs, alcohol or eating disorder behaviors. Furthermore, the root of this abuse is often linked back to stress, anxiety and trauma. Eating disorder behaviors and substance abuse are coping mechanisms used to deal with stressful situations.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Agoura is Key for Successful Treatment

Eating disorders and addiction can be simultaneously treated, though this is rare. Most treatment centers in Agoura Hills are equipped to treat eating disorders or substance use disorders, not both. Awakenings Treatment Center is the exception.

At Awakenings Treatment Center, we offer dual diagnosis treatment and have a firm understanding of eating disorders. We recognize that people engage in food abuse because they want to feel in control and cope with negative emotions.

Some topics covered in our treatment program are:

  • Establishing a healthy relationship with food
  • Addressing insecurities about the body
  • Learning to cope with stressful situations
  • Forming an identity separate from the eating disorder
  • Treating underlying mental health conditions

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder and substance use disorder, contact Awakenings Treatment Center today at 855-717-3268. We have programs to fit your needs.