Statistically significant relationships have been found between substance abuse and disordered eating since food addictions work through the same neurological pleasure centers as alcohol and drugs. Clients struggling with conditions like anorexia may turn to narcotics to self-medicate co-morbid psychological symptoms like anxiety or depression. In these dual-diagnosis cases, recovery professionals stress the need for a carefully designed treatment protocol that addresses the interrelated nature of disordered eating and substance misuse.
Research Perspectives on Substance Abuse & Disordered Eating
According to some estimates, as many as half of all patients with an eating disorder also have a co-occurring alcohol or drug abuse issue—a substance abuse rate five times higher than that of the general population. Researchers believe these links can often be attributed to one or both of the following factors:
- Process addictions such as binge eating flood the brain with dopamine, the same feel-good chemical released in large measures by illicit drug use. Over time, abusive habits lead to changes in brain chemistry, making users dependent on addictive behaviors to activate these neurological pleasure centers.
- As reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), controlled studies have found that disordered eating frequently co-occurs with psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Cluster C personality disorders. Men and women with these conditions are at higher risk of developing a substance abuse issue stemming from self-medication of underlying symptoms.
Treating Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders
At Red Oak Recovery®, we use a progressive and holistic treatment model to help patients with co-occurring eating disorders and substance misuse issues heal holistically: body, mind, and soul. We grow our own farm-fresh food and emphasize the importance of nutrition education in our recovery programs.
Red Oak Recovery® participants also take cooking classes where they learn more about the regenerative benefits of healthy eating. Along with supplementary individual and group counseling, these strategies generate high treatment success rates and promote a permanent move toward wellness.
If you or a young adult you care about suffers from disordered eating and chemical dependency, we invite you to learn more about our clinically dynamic treatment model. To connect with an admissions specialist, inquire about insurance coverage, or enroll in our dual-diagnosis disordered eating program, contact the Red Oak Recovery® team today.