Anorexia and bulimia are two of the most common eating disorders from which people suffer. However, every manifestation of each is different.
There are now buzzwords to describe certain types of anorexia and bulimia. These include “Diabulimia” (diabetes combined with bulimia) and “Manorexia” (a term for anorexia in men).
“Drunkorexia” is another such buzzword. It's used to describe a combination of self-starvation, binge eating and binge drinking.
Eating disorders can be lethal by themselves. The National Eating Disorders Association finds mortality rates are 4 percent for anorexia and 3.9% for bulimia. When one considers that about 30 million Americans have an eating disorder, these percentages are shocking. People are more likely to die from eating disorders if they also abuse alcohol.
Anorexia, Bulimia And Alcohol Abuse
Anorexia is an eating disorder in which a person starves him or herself to lose weight. When anorexics do eat, their calorie intake is extremely restricted. Many anorexics avoid alcohol, but some choose to binge drink in place of eating. Others drink to calm their anxiety before eating or to suppress their appetites. This way, they can hide their disorder somewhat but still maintain an eating regimen.
Some people with eating disorders drink during the day and binge eat at night. They will sustain themselves on tiny portions of low-calorie food, or no food at all. But then they will binge and purge incredible amounts.
Some people report throwing up entire pizzas, multiple boxes of cereal and mass quantities of sweets. People with eating disorders sometimes spend $80 to $100 a day on fast food. Some anorexics binge drink while binging and purging. However, others use alcohol as their main sustenance.
Recent studies show between 25 and 33 percent of bulimics engage in alcoholism and drug abuse. That's higher than among anorexics: A recent study indicates only 20 to 25 percent of anorexics have alcoholism or substance abuse issues.
Bulimics sometimes use alcohol, as well as cocaine or heroin, to suppress their appetites. They then binge and purge when they feel it's safe, often at night.
Do Eating Disorders Cause Alcoholism?
Determining whether the eating disorder or alcoholism came first can be tricky. Studies show that more people, especially women, are abusing alcohol these days. Since women are more prone to eating disorders than men, a connection is likely. However, both men and women are vulnerable to the combination of eating disorders and alcohol abuse.
External factors may influence whether eating disorders or alcoholism show up first in a patient. One eating disorder patient, a nurse, reported staring at the clock during long shifts, aching for her next drink. She used alcohol not only to cope with her job's stress, but to relax her when she ate in front of colleagues.
“If I drink more, I'm more into my eating disorder and vice versa,” she explained.
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Is There An ‘Average Drunkorexic'?
Although anyone can become a “drunkorexic,” certain demographics are more at risk. Many female college students combine anorexia or bulimia with alcohol abuse. Studies show about 30 percent of college-aged women restrict their food intake so they can drink more, feel better about eating, and avoid gaining weight.
Most women who have been surveyed said they often do not eat before drinking. They reported this would cause them to become intoxicated faster, absorb less food, and thus lose weight.
The social pressure to be thin is rampant, especially among young people. There is also tremendous social pressure to drink. When these two pressures combine, it becomes no surprise people in their 20s and 30s are at risk for becoming so-called drunkorexics.
Additionally, drunkorexics are more likely than most alcohol users to experience full-blown addiction. People often use alcohol to combat hunger, even though the liquid substance is made up of empty calories.
Other Dangers Of ‘Drunkorexia'
Because drunkorexics drink on an empty stomach, they will experience adverse effects more quickly. These include blackouts, dizzy spells and memory loss, all of which could be particularly harmful for college students. Drunkorexics are also more likely to vomit. They may use this behavior as a way to lose weight.
Alcohol causes dehydration, which depletes existing nutrients and minerals. For an anorexic or bulimic, this pushes an eating disorder from dangerous to fatal. The natural effects of malnourishment such as stomach distention, tooth and mouth deterioration, and brittle hair will be exaggerated.
How To Break The Alcohol Abuse And Eating Disorders Connection
If you are using alcohol to cope with an eating disorder, contact a dual diagnosis treatment center to learn about a two-pronged approach to combating eating disorders and alcoholism. The right alcohol treatment program should be able to restore your health by teaching you to fuel your body with food instead of alcohol.
Mixing An Eating Disorder With Any Amount Of Alcohol Can Be A Dangerous And Deadly Combination. If You Need Help To Tackle Your Alcohol Habits, and Co-Occurring Disorders Such As Eating Disorders and Mental Health Issues, We Can Help.
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