Eating Disorders and substance abuse

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Unhealthy food

Unhealthy relationship with food.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

More about eating disorders and substance abuse.

Risk factors for eating disorders.

Eating disorders, especial Anorexia and Bulimia are far more common in woman than in men. The ratio runs 10 women for every man. Our society’s emphasis on physical appearance puts young girls at extreme risk as they try to fit the image they see portrayed in the media. Eating disorders that begin in the teen or preteen years are unlikely to go away without treatment.

Certain activities and later on in life specific occupations have built-in an emphasis on keeping the weight off and having a particular body shape. Young women who train to become models, gymnasts and dancers are at high risk.

Young men who engage in sports that emphasize weight classes are also at risk of developing Anorexia or Bulimia. Male gymnasts, wrestlers, and jockeys all experience pressure to lose weight and keep it off that may become unhealthy.

Added eating disorder dangers.

The dangers of eating disorders are not confined to those with anorexia who reach low body weight. Even when the body weight looks normal, the process of purging, intentional vomiting, and extreme dieting, can create health risks. Some methods harm health while being ineffective for weight loss.

Purging and diuretics can create extreme dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. Dehydration does not equate with loss of total weight and can seriously impair health.

Subclinical forms of eating disorders.

Milder forms of eating disorders are more common than previously thought. As the emphasis on obesity and weight loss has grown, many more people have resorted to extreme measures to get sudden weight loss or to reduce weight gain. Despite the health risks involved it is tempting to allow yourself an occasional purge to offset the guilty feeling surrounding overeating or a meal with excess calories.

Co-occurrence of Eating Disorders and substance use disorders.

The overlap between Bulimia and substance abuse may be larger than previously thought.

Assorted studies on the co-occurrence of Bulimia and substance abuse have given varying estimates of the number of people with both issues. Current estimates run between a median of 25% and a high of 50%. Clearly, lots of milder cases of combined Bulimia and substance abuse are going undetected and untreated until one or both problems become acute. These two problems together are much more than the sum of adding up both disorders.

People with eating disorders are also more likely to currently have or have had a history of an anxiety disorder and a mood disorder. Many with an eating disorder have three or more disorders.

Those with eating disorders are at high risk to abuse or become dependent on stimulants. The “Jenny Crank” diet is legendary among Methamphetamine abusers. Abuse of stimulants for weight control regularly results in chemical dependency and serious health problems.

Boundaries between eating disorders are not firm.

During their lifetime people with eating disorders may move between the three principal eating disorders.

Medical issues in eating disorders are noteworthy.

Medical problems are especially challenging for those with an eating disorder. Untreated an eating disorder can lead to serious medical problems and sometimes death. Eating Disorders rarely go away by themselves and need professional treatment before the damage to the body and the emotions becomes permanent and possibly irreversible.

Other Eating Disorder posts can be found at:

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia 

Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

5 thoughts on “Eating Disorders and substance abuse

  1. Pingback: 6 new Eating Disorder Traits | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia | counselorssoapbox

  3. Pingback: Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa | counselorssoapbox

  4. Pingback: Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia | counselorssoapbox

  5. Pingback: Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder | counselorssoapbox

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