What happens when eating disorders and substance abuse overlap?
Eating disorders, as well as substance abuse, are disruptive behavioral disorders that, if left untreated, can negatively impact the person’s ability to live a normal life. Many view them as separate and clear-cut issues. It’s hard for people to understand that the two maladies often go hand in hand.
Someone who consumes large quantities of food in a short amount of time has the tendency to experiment with drugs. Almost half of the individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder abuse illegal substances. Surprisingly, more women than men are diagnosed with psychological disorderscharacterized by abnormal eating habits.
On the other hand, someone who suffers from substance dependency will most likely engage in binge eating or develop anorexia. A chain of events is formed, in which the response to one difficulty creates a new issue that aggravates the original one. What happens is that the mental illness feeds off the other and the two perpetuate themselves.
A parallel between eating disorders and drug addiction
There is a reason why people mix up eating disorders and addiction. They are basically the same. Both of them are chronic diseases that are manifested by abnormal habits. The two illnesses share so many similarities that screening is almost identical.
In order to determine the presence or absence of illegal substances or know for sure that the patient suffers from an eating disorder, clinicians look for things such as:
- A preoccupation that interferes with the thoughts and causes distress
- Rise in frequency or intensity over time
- Making sacrifices so as to spend time on an enslaving substance or behavior
- Impossibility to put a stop to an addictive behavior in spite of repeated attempts
- People worried about a particular attitude
- Using substances or resorting to a particular behavior all the time
It’s clear to see that there isn’t such a great of a difference between eating disorders and addiction.
What we have learned about the causes of eating disorders and substance abuse
Eating disorders and substance abuse are closely related health problems, so it’s worth making sense of their causes.
As far as eating disorders are concerned, they are highly complex and influenced by a number of factors like irregular hormone functions, genetics, and, finally yet importantly, nutritional deficiencies. Binge eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia, remain a mystery.
Research has come a long way. However, further investigations are necessary. Researchers at the University Of North Carolina School Of Medicine are currently studying the genetic factors that may be associated with the medical conditions. Participants receive a free Apple Watch, which is nice. With the help of the device, people are able to monitor their mood, food consumption, and goals for a period of 30 days.
When it comes down to addiction, things get a little more complicated. Substance abuse is a disease of the body and the brain. Addictive substances like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine interfere with the way that the neurons send, receive, and process signals. The result is that normal communication is disrupted.
Generally, people who eat too much or use drugs have suffered a great deal of pain. In addition to emotional and physical trauma, it’s worth mentioning the environment, which imposes a great deal of pressure.
People from all walks of life can experience issues, yet some factors can increase a person’s risk for developing one medical condition or the other.
Scientists are of the opinion that addictive psychological behaviors are acquired, in the sense that the traits are innate. Rewarding a specific behavior is the last thing that individuals should do because this increases the motivation to repeat them. Binge eating and drugs overstimulate the dopamine’s actions. The behavior is therefore repeated and it’s difficult to make any changes.
Is there any lesson to be learned here? Yes, the fact that eating disorders and addiction mirror one another, especially as regards to the relationship between cause and effect.
Treating eating disorders and drug abuse together
Until now, the illnesses used to be treated separately. This is normal taking into consideration that they weren’t seen as being interconnected. At present, we’re capable of understanding that one behavioral addiction drives the other and vice versa. It goes without saying that they shouldn’t be treated separately.
Addicts aren’t reluctant to visit ayahuasca retreats. As a matter of fact, they are interested in the spiritual experience and are eager to go to a place where drinking ayahuasca is the norm. Places of this kind have formulas for any kind of substance abuse issue, ranging from methadone to crack alcohol. Wouldn’t it be great if sufferers could find a cure for their eating disorder too? Studies have demonstrated that ayahuasca can modify behavior for the better. In other words, it can help with bulimia or anorexia.
It’s important to keep in mind that people who succumb to drug addiction are also battling an eating disorder and the other way round. The two addictions must be treated together and in an aggressive manner. More than half of sufferers fall into a relapse and keep on dealing with the illness. Those suffering from both chronic conditions ought to receive a dual treatment. If they are treated separately, long-term recovery is impaired.
It’s necessary to come across a specialist who can address eating dependence, as well as substance abuse. Providers offer different levels of care and treatment, meaning that not all plans may fit the needs of the patient. Just a reminder: holistic medicine is on the rise once again.
Why do people continue to engage in self-destructive behaviors?
It’s hard if not impossible to comprehend why some people engage in self-destructive behaviors, in particular when they know the consequences or have already experienced them. As mentioned earlier, behaviors and substances have a devastating effect on the brain. The point is that willpower isn’t enough to get better. Or is it?
Numerous individuals have succeeded in overcoming addiction without taking drugs. This may be so, but they couldn’t have done it without professional assistance. Caregivers use natural treatments to promote healing. Nevertheless, they are there every step of the way, helping the sufferer make a full recovery. It’s wrong to blame someone who can’t get better. After all, it isn’t their fault they are the way they are.