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Facing an Eating Disorder and Addiction Too

Recent research indicates that there are similarities between eating disorders and addiction to drugs and alcohol. One of the most striking similarities is the inability to stop drinking or using drugs. And in the case of an eating disorder, a person loses the ability to stop eating, as in the case of binge eating.

Anything that stimulates excitement or pleasure can contribute to the development of an addiction. Although most people think of drugs or alcohol when they think of addiction, there are other types of addictions that experts call behavioral addictions. And the field of psychology recognizes that eating disorders can be considered one of these behavioral addictions. Behavioral addictions are those that involve a behavior versus a substance. For instance, a person can be addicted to shopping, the thrill of gambling, or the pleasure of having sex – as well as the high that eating can bring. When a person engages in a particular behavior in order to access pleasure or stimulation, there is always the possibility that that behavior might be addictive. And when a habitual behavior (such as regular gambling) turns into the inability to stop, it has become an addiction.

It should be noted that there are various types of eating disorders and not all of them include losing the ability to stop eating. For instance, in Anorexia Nervosa, the classic symptom is severe control of food versus losing control. However, with Bulimia Nervosa as well as Binge Eating Disorder, a person loses control over eating and experiences in inability to stop. Below are the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa:

Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

Anorexia Nervosa

  • A refusal to maintain a body weight that is considered within a normal range for age and height.
  • An intense fear of gaining weight or being fat, even though the client is underweight.
  • There exists a disturbance in the way that the body is seen, such as a denial of the seriousness of a low body weight.
  • The absence of at least consecutive menstrual cycles.

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating, that is, eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time with a strong lack of control and feelings of not being able to stop eating.
  • Behavior that attempts to compensate for the overeating such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, frequent fasting, or excessive exercise.

If you’re experiencing an eating disorder as well as substance abuse, you might be experiencing the inability to stop with both drinking/drug use as well as eating. And even if you’re experiencing only one of these, calling a mental health professional can bring support into your life. He or she can likely help you find the treatment you need. It’s clear that an eating disorder is an illness that affects the mind, the body, and the heart. And in most cases, addiction also affects these parts of a person. Because of this, treatment may need to include a medical doctor, a therapist, and possibly a psychiatrist.

If you’re struggling in your life with these symptoms, contact a mental health provider today!

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