The disease of addiction has many faces. Whether it’s alcoholism, addiction to illicit substances, or addiction to certain behaviors, it can be overwhelming and can dismantle the life of the addict. But, many people confuse what addiction actually means. When people picture an “addict”, they may picture a homeless individual, covered in sores with wide, tired eyes. They may think that addicts are criminals, stalking alleyways, looking to score their drug of choice. Whatever individual they may imagine, it’s not likely to be the young, straight-A college student. When it comes to drunkorexia addiction; however, this is exactly the individual who struggles with this form of addiction most.
What Is Drunkorexia?
It’s unlikely that you have ever even heard the term “drunkorexia.” While not an official diagnosis or medical term, it is the colloquial name of an addiction disorder. Drunkorexia refers to the combination of an eating disorder, typically bulimia or anorexia, and alcoholism. With all of the pressures put on primarily young women to stay thin, it can easily turn into an obsession.
The United States, in particular, also fosters a drinking culture. The perpetuation of the necessity of alcohol for a good time has led many people to overindulge in the substance. College age people specifically are the most at-risk age group for engaging in this type of binge drinking.
So, out of the need to party and the need to look skinny while doing it, drunkorexia was born.
Why Do People Do It?
So, what would drive someone to combine two dangerous forms of addiction? The societal pressures put on young people can incite some incredible things. Essentially, in the quest of looking thin, people will forgo meals so that they can indulge in excessive amounts of alcohol later on. Alcohol has a ton of calories, especially beer and wine.
By eating a full meal and consuming several drinks at the bar, an individual may exceed the number of calories they are allowed per day to maintain their weight. Thus, over time, an increase in weight gain and a “bloated” appearance may begin to manifest.
Since people want to be able to go out and enjoy multiple drinks later on, throughout the day they will limit their food intake or even purge (induce vomiting) their meals to leave room for alcohol later. This acts as an eating disorder and alcohol use disorder and can have some serious health consequences for people both physically and psychologically.
What Are the Health Risks?
Drunkorexia may accomplish the end goal of the individuals engaging in this dangerous behavior, but this comes at a real cost. Eating disorders, in general, can have nasty side effects on one’s health in the long-run without the implication of alcohol abuse as well.
Anorexia is a psychological disorder that causes the individual to have a severe preoccupation with food and dieting and a distorted perception of self-image and body. In the interest of losing weight, people will often engage in elective starvation, avoiding food altogether to prevent gaining weight. As a result of this destructive behavior, people will see side effects like:
- Extreme weight loss
- Brittle Nails
- Hair Loss
- Low Blood Pressure
- Elevated Liver Enzymes
- Abnormal Blood Counts
- Irregular Heart Beats
Bulimia is another type of eating disorder. Individuals who suffer from bulimia do not forgo food completely but, instead, engage in a “binge and purge” pattern of eating. This is when the person eats a large amount of food in one sitting or binging, only to follow it with systemic-induced vomiting or purging. This allows the person to engage in eating without keeping any of the calories (or nutrients) from the food. A person may encounter side effects such as:
- Dry Skin
- Abnormal Bowel Functioning
- Muscle Cramps
- Tooth Decay
These symptoms coupled with alcohol abuse can spell disaster for one’s body. The consumption of alcohol on an empty stomach also increases the alcohol’s effects on the body. With nothing in the system apart from the alcohol, it will cause a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to skyrocket in a short amount of time. This can lead to other dangerous side effects like blacking out or even alcohol poisoning.
How Can We Treat It?
Since drunkorexia is so prevalent, with one study revealing that nearly 60 percent of all undergraduates participate in drunkorexic tendencies, it’s crucial that these individuals get treatment. Since both alcoholism and eating disorders are forms of addiction, the best way to combat drunkorexia is by undergoing dual diagnosis treatment.
People struggling with drunkorexia must undergo treatment for both their eating disorder AND substance abuse disorder. One cannot exist without the other, so the only way to overcome the disorders is to treat them at the same time, together. The co-occurring mental illnesses must be addressed in the correct way in order for the individual to overcome their dual-diagnosis.
A popular therapeutic technique designed to treat dual diagnoses is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. In CBT, the therapy focuses on the patient’s thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes in relation to their feelings and behaviors. It aims to teach different, healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the issues encountered in the patient’s life.
Do You Need Help?
Drunkorexia is another form of dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis may be scary, but it is not a death sentence! Locating and engaging in the correct treatment for your dual diagnosis is the key to finding relief. That’s where Pathway to Hope can help.
With years of experience in treating dual diagnosis, Pathway to Hope’s dedicated team can help you or a loved one overcome their addiction in a safe, compassionate environment. With our knowledgeable addiction professionals standing by 24/7, by calling 844-557-8575 now, you’ll be connected to the help you need and deserve. Don’t delay; contact us today and take the first step toward your new happy, healthy, sober life now!