What Is Drunkorexia?

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
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Brittle Nails
  • Hair Loss
  • Seizures
  • 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:

  • Bloating
  • Dehydration
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Dry Skin
  • Seizures
  • 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!

Food Addicts in Recovery: Putting Down the Spoon and Picking Up the Fork

In recovery, we undergo many changes. Some changes are big, some are small, but the one guarantee we have when we get sober is that everything will change in one way or another, and most of the time these changes are a good thing!

A complete lifestyle makeover is necessary in order to successfully beat the disease of addiction. But sometimes, these changes cannot always be the best. The disease of addiction is all-encompassing, and many times we experience addiction “whack-a-mole.” Once we overcome addiction in one area of our lives, it can somehow flare up in another. This rings true for food. Food addiction is a serious condition, and many of us can become food addicts in recovery.

What is Food Addiction?

Like addiction in all of its other forms, food addiction is a powerful disorder. Food addiction is the overindulgence of highly palatable foods, which are often salty, sweet, or fatty in nature.

Consuming this type of food has been compared to having a similar effect on the brain as that of cocaine or other illicit drugs. Eating these foods can directly impact the pleasure center of the brain, which, in turn, will release the “feel good” chemical dopamine.

As dopamine continues to be released, it conditions the food addict to continually seek out these types of foods in order to satisfy the “cravings” they begin to experience. These cravings, like those for drugs, will, over time, require more food to feel satiated, as the food addict begins to build a “tolerance to the food.” As such, in a relatively short amount of time, you can become a full-blown food addict.

Food Addicts in Recovery

What about the food addicts in recovery? Surely, when we’re actively working a program, we can avoid falling into the food trap? Actually, becoming a food addict in recovery is very common. In an effort to avoid relapsing on drugs or alcohol, many recovering addicts and alcoholics turn to other activities to keep themselves preoccupied. Food is a common choice due to its availability and overall acceptability. Most people do not draw a connection to food and acting out in addictive tendencies, so this type of replacement therapy can be extremely dangerous thanks to its insidious nature.

Often, as a result of getting sober, recovering addicts and alcoholics will inadvertently begin putting on weight. Due to having poor nutrition, maintaining an irregular eating schedule for an elongated amount of time, and finally having the financial means to acquire food, people in early recovery have difficulty with managing their weight gain and diet. They can very easily become food addicts in recovery without even realizing it. The same “high” they once experienced from drugs and alcohol is now coming from a seemingly innocent source, and the overindulgence can begin once again.

What are the Signs of Food Addiction in Recovery?

If you’re worried about yourself or a loved one becoming a food addict in recovery, there are several signs and symptoms of active food addiction that you can look for. By remaining vigilant, honest, and committed to combating your addiction, no matter what form it may take, you can definitely fight back against food addiction in recovery.

Some of the signs of food addiction are:

  • Eating more than planned when it comes to certain foods
  • Continually eating even when you’re not hungry
  • Getting sick from overeating
  • Going out of your way to obtain certain foods, even if they’re not readily available
  • Obsessing about eating or not eating certain types of foods

Food addiction is just as serious as any other type of addiction. It can run rampant over the food addict’s life, damaging relationships and causing serious health side effects as well. Eating an exorbitant amount of sugary and fatty foods can lead to an onset of severe diseases like heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. These conditions are not only life-threatening but can be lifelong. The implications of food addiction can affect you even after you stop.

What Can You Do to Combat Your Food Addiction?

If you find yourself in the midst of being a food addict in recovery, or a food addict in general, fear not, there are many different ways you can combat your food addiction. Much like other forms of addiction, food addiction also has its very own 12-step program dedicated to dealing specifically with issues with food. Food Addicts in Recovery, or FA, is similar to other forms of 12-step programs. Members are encouraged to obtain a sponsor and work the steps in order to overcome his or her addiction to food.

If FA is not is not necessarily in your scope, or if you’re already actively working in another 12-step fellowship, there are other methods to coping with your food addiction. By opening up and being honest about your struggles with food and overeating, you can have your sponsor and support system keep you accountable. Keeping a food diary, creating a meal plan, and monitoring what and how much you eat can also be effective ways to avoid acting out in your food addiction.

What Can Be Done About Addiction?

Whether you’re a food addict in recovery or an addict or alcoholic in general, struggling with addiction in any form can be scary and overwhelming at times. That’s where Pathway to Hope comes in!

At Pathway to Hope, we’re committed to addressing and treating you or a loved one’s addiction with a variety of therapeutic techniques. With a custom treatment plan tailored to fit you or your loved one’s specific needs, you’ll rest assured that you’ll be in good hands. Contact us today at Pathway to Hope at 844-557-7585 or contact us online and get connected to one of our addiction professionals who can help you get started on the journey to recovery!

Hoarding Disorder: Can You Be Addicted to Collecting Stuff?

Just about everyone has possessions he or she holds near and dear, and if not, there’s likely some just sitting around just begging to be given or thrown away. Clutter is a problem for many people, but once saving items has crossed over into hoarding, the act and the attachment to the items take on a different meaning that has little to do with the items themselves.

The American Psychiatric Association offers guidance on how to determine if someone has hoarding disorder. People with this condition excessively store items and find it persistently difficult to get rid of or part with them. This inability to give away things leads to clutter that spirals out of control and disrupts work and living spaces, relationships, social activities, and other areas in life. The disorder is believed to occur in an estimated two to six percent of the general population and is more common in males and older adults who are age 55 to 94 years old.

Hoarding and collecting are not synonymous

Hoarding is not the same as collecting, as APA notes. Collectors search for specific items and may organize them for display, it says. But hoarders save random items because they feel they need them for future use.

They may find comfort in having those items around them, even if others view them as having little value. Sometimes, it is discomfort that keeps people holding on to stuff.

Hoarding disorder can lead to problems with functioning, according to the APA. Some people with this disorder have trouble parting with things because of the distress that comes with the idea of giving something away.

Over time, this excessive saving of things winds up in piles and piles and more piles of clutter, making their environment unsanitary, hazardous, and unsightly to family, friends, and others. Hoarding items often makes living and working spaces unusable, and severe amounts of clutter can threaten personal safety and cause health problems or structural damage.

Getting rid of possessions is challenging for hoarders because they may experience:

  • Negative feelings such as fear, anger, or guilt when considering decluttering items
  • Strong beliefs that items are “valuable” or “useful,” even when the opposite is true
  • Strong positive feelings when accumulating new items
  • Strong attachments to inanimate objects, even to the point of naming them

Paper, mail, clothing, plastic containers, and bags are among the items people with this disorder collect. But it can always go a step further, which should raise concern. When people start to hoard garbage, rotten food, human waste, animals, and things that are out of the ordinary or unreasonable, it is time to take serious notice and action.

Possible causes of hoarding disorder include a stressful life-changing event, such as a loved one’s death, and having a relative who is also a hoarder. Brain injuries, which are found to cause symptoms of hoarding.

The APA lists specific symptoms of hoarding disorder, which are:

  • Lasting problems with throwing out or giving away possessions, regardless of their actual value.
  • The problems are due to a perceived need to save the items and to distress linked to parting with them.
  • Items fill, block, and clutter active living spaces so they cannot be used, or use is hampered by the large number of items (if living spaces are clear it is due to help from others).

The questions below can help determine if you or your loved one has hoarding disorder.

  • Do you have trouble discarding (or recycling, selling, or giving away) things that most other people would get rid of?
  • Because of the clutter or number of possessions, how difficult is it to use the rooms and surfaces in your home?
  • To what extent do you buy items or acquire free things that you do not need or have enough space for?
  • To what extent do your hoarding, saving, acquisition and clutter affect your daily functioning?
  • How much do these symptoms interfere with school, work or your social or family life?
  • How much distress do these symptoms cause you?

Source: The American Psychiatric Association

Hoarding disorder and substance abuse

Some hoarders have problems with substance abuse and addiction. When hoarding disorder and substance abuse are combined, the picture becomes more complicated. If both are present at the same time, then the person has co-occurring disorders, a condition also known as dual diagnosis. Substance abuse treatment needs to address both conditions at the same time.

An overwhelming amount of stuff that crowds others out leaves many hoarders facing their mounds of stuff alone, physically, and emotionally. Because of this, people with this condition often are isolated from others, and that state of being can cause anxiety and depression. To numb these feelings, a person may drink alcohol or use drugs or other addictive substances. Excessive and uncontrollable use to the point of self-harm or harm to others indicates that the problem is a substance use disorder that requires professional treatment.

Determining substance abuse disorder

According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), substance use disorder occurs when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically and functionally significant impairment.

These include health problems, disability, and failure to carry out major responsibilities at work, school, or home. SUDs can be mild, moderate or severe, but before that is determined, a person must undergo an evaluation to see how many diagnostic criteria are present so the proper diagnosis can be made.

The DSM-5 has retired the terms “substance abuse” and “substance dependence,” and combined them all into the term “substance use disorder.”

Symptoms of substance use disorders can affect a person’s physical health and appearance, emotional health, psychological health, and their social environment.

Behavioral changes include:

    • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
    • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
    • Using substances in physically hazardous situations such as while driving or operating a machine
    • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
    • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
    • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
    • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
    • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
    • Lacking of motivation
    • Appearing fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason

Physical changes, such as:

    • Bloodshot eyes and abnormally sized pupils
    • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
    • Deterioration of physical appearance
    • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
    • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

Social changes, such as:

    • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
    • Legal problems related to substance use
    • Unexplained need for money or financial problems
    • Using substances even though it causes problems in relationships

There are a variety of treatments and services available to help people with substance use disorders. They include inpatient and residential treatment, outpatient treatment, partial hospital programs, individual and group counseling, 12-step groups, recovery support, and relapse prevention treatment. Pathway to Hope can help you figure out which ones best fit your situation or that of your loved one.

Is there a link between hoarding and OCD?

People with the anxiety disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, are also found among people with hoarding disorder. And people with OCD also have been found to have substance use disorders.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder have an alcohol or other substance use disorder, and nearly 20 percent of those with an alcohol or substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder.

So, it is possible that one hoards items because of having OCD, and the person may abuse substances to try to deal with OCD and hoarding disorder. To get the proper diagnosis, see a licensed physician or mental health professional.

According to the International OCD Foundation, compulsive hoarding was commonly viewed as a type of OCD. The foundation also says, “Compulsive hoarding is also considered a feature of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and may develop along with other mental illnesses, such as dementia and schizophrenia.”

The foundation says compulsive personality disorder can be treated but not with the methods used to treat OCD. It is believed there are no medications to treat hoarding disorder. If substance user disorder is in the picture, then medications may be used to help treatment for that, but that is determined after a person has undergone detoxification and assessment to see what treatment program best fits their situation.

Do you struggle with hoarding disorder and substance abuse?

People with hoarding disorder often feel like they are in control of their “stuff” and are in denial that their habit of saving things for future use has gotten beyond manageable. It is the same kind of refusal to address the issue that also holds back people who are struggling with substance abuse disorder.

However, you don’t have to be in this group. If you feel your challenges with hoarding disorder and/or substance abuse disorder are what’s holding you back from living your best life, call Pathway to Hope’s 24-hour helpline at (844) 557-8575 or contact us online.

Our call representatives can help you find treatment programs that fit your needs, including dual diagnosis treatment options.  We will guide you every step of the way both in and out of addiction treatment, so start your recovery today.