Eating Disorders and Addiction

There are many disorders that co-occur with addiction. This is because many people start abusing substances in response to the frustrations and negative emotions they’re experiencing due to other illnesses that they’re suffering from. Thus, many illnesses are catalysts to substance abuse and addiction. For example, when it comes to eating disorders and addiction, eating disorders are often the catalysts to addiction. 

On the flip side, substance abuse and addiction can alter an individual’s brain chemistry and spark destructive thoughts and behavior patterns in an individual that cause mental illnesses such as eating disorders to occur. Thus, addiction too can act as a catalyst for mental illnesses such as eating disorders. 

Regardless of which disorder came first, addiction or a mental illness, one thing is certain. Co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders can take a toll on the lives of many individuals. To exemplify this, here is some information on the dual diagnosis of eating disorders and addiction. 

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is an illness that causes people to have problematic thoughts and emotions associated with food and how they consume it, and how they view their bodies. Thus, eating disorders negatively affect an individual’s mind, body, and spirit. 

Over time, eating disorders that are left untreated can lead to serious health conditions and even death. While many people associate eating disorders with teenage girls and young adult females, any individual of any gender or age can suffer from an eating disorder. Although women do experience eating disorders at higher rates. 

Types of Eating Disorders

There are numerous types of eating disorders. Therefore, the symptoms of different eating disorders vary. Some common types of eating disorders include the following:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, otherwise known as anorexia, is characterized by constantly seeing oneself as being too fat even when dangerously thin. In fact, many people who suffer from anorexia nervosa start to work out incessantly due to wanting to control their weight. Some other common characteristics of people with anorexia include:

Eating Disorders and Addiction
  • Distorted body image
  • Intense fear of gaining weight and becoming fat
  • Obsessive desire to lose weight
  • Abnormally low body weight
  • Very restrictive eating patterns

A major factor that causes a person to suffer from anorexia is the need and desire to feel in control of something. Thus, individuals that feel that they lack control in other aspects of their lives may develop anorexia. 

Once a person develops anorexia, they will overcompensate for the lack of control that they have in other areas of life by controlling where, when, and how much he or she eats every day. Usually, the amount of food an anorexic person consumes each day is minimal. This is due to the fact that anorexic individuals restrict themselves from eating much food. 

When not restricting oneself to eat small amounts of food, many anorexic individuals will go through periods of time when they’re unhealthy and binge-eating. Because anorexic individuals obsess about food and weight incessantly, anorexia commonly co-occurs with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

When a person starves him or herself too much, his or her body starts to slow down to save energy. This slowed negative bodily reaction to anorexia can lead to numerous other health issues when left untreated. For example, people who suffer from anorexia can experience infertility, bone thinning, brittle nails, or death. 

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, otherwise known as bulimia, is an eating disorder that causes people to binge-eat food only to vomit it up later. People who suffer from bulimia force themselves to binge-eat and then purge their food by vomiting. They do this because they feel the food that they’re consuming is bad and fattening for them. Many bulimic individuals also purge their food because doing so makes them feel as if they’ve accomplished something.  

Luckily, due to constantly forcing themselves to vomit after meals, many people who suffer from bulimia naturally start to feel unsettled after they eat. This is especially the case when individuals who suffer from bulimia eat fattening foods that they normally try to avoid. Therefore, purging oneself of food through vomiting starts to become second nature to someone with bulimia. 

Common characteristics of a person with bulimia include:

  • Experiencing recurrent episodes of binge-eating
  • Experiencing recurrent episodes of purging
  • Having a fear of gaining weight
  • Allowing weight to continuously determine one’s self-worth

Continuously forcing yourself to vomit after eating due to bulimia can cause adverse physical effects over time. One of the long-term physical effects of chronically purging one’s system by vomiting is a sore and inflamed throat. Continuously forcing oneself to vomit can also cause your teeth to have worn enamel. 


eating disorders and addiction

Binge eating itself is also an eating disorder. Binge-eating is consuming large amounts of food within a short period of time. While many bulimic individuals binge-eat prior to purging their food, there are many differences between binge-eating and bulimia. 

One major difference between bulimia and binge-eating is that bulimics always follow their binge-eating with purging and vomiting. On the other hand, people who suffer exclusively from binge-eating will eat large amounts of food within a short period of time and retain that food. 

Many individuals binge-eat when they’re down or depressed. In a way, binge-eating acts as a toxic form of coping. This is different from bulimics who binge-eat when obsessing about their weight, only to vomit up all the food that they previously binged on.


Pica is an eating disorder that causes people to eat non-food items. The type of items that people with a pica disorder consume include things like chalk, soap, dirt, ice, cornstarch, and hair. Although people that suffer from pica disorders like to consume non-food items, they still eat regular food as well. 

Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

There are numerous signs and symptoms that help tell if a person suffers from an eating disorder. Some of these signs and symptoms are emotional, some are behavioral, and some are physical. 

Emotional Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Emotional signs and symptoms of eating disorders are eating disorder signs and symptoms that affect one’s emotional stability. One clear example of an emotional sign and symptom of eating disorders is extreme mood swings.

Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Behavioral signs and symptoms of eating disorders are eating disorder signs and symptoms that affect how an individual behaves. Examples of behavioral signs and symptoms of eating disorders are:

  • Being obsessed with one’s own weight
  • Not feeling comfortable eating around others
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities that one once enjoyed
  • Having certain food rituals
  • Frequently looking in the mirror to analyze one’s physical flaws

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Physical signs and symptoms of eating disorders are the different ways that eating disorders affect a person’s physical body. Some common physical signs and symptoms of eating disorders include:

  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Acid reflux
  • Muscle weakness

The Link Between Eating Disorders and Addiction

Eating disorders and addiction link together in many different ways. According to Social Work Today, almost 50% of people who suffer from eating disorders abuse substances. On the other hand, about 35% of people who abuse substances also suffer from an eating disorder. 

eating disorders and addiction

Due to the high percentage of people who suffer from both eating disorders and addiction, one can easily say that there’s a link between these two types of disorders. Because these two disorders are clearly linked and thus can affect one another, they are considered co-occurring, or a dual diagnosis.

Common Causes for the Development of Eating Disorders and Addiction

There are many factors that can help cause a person to start suffering from both eating disorders and addiction. Some of these factors are described below.


One factor that can help cause a person to suffer from eating disorders and addiction is genetics. This is because people’s genetic history can make them more susceptible to developing illnesses such as eating disorders and addiction. 


It’s like what people say, half of who a person is is due to genetics and the other half of who a person is is due to their environment. Therefore, it only makes sense that people’s environments impact the behaviors and coping mechanisms that individuals develop, whether they are positive or negative. For example, if a person has tons of friends who abuse substances at a time that he or she is also constantly being reminded of impossible standards of beauty by the media, then that person is more likely to develop eating disorders and addiction. 


One factor that could easily spark eating disorders and substance abuse is trauma. This is because trauma, whether it’s physical, emotional, spiritual, or even sexual, can forever change a person. Thus, trauma has more than enough power to cause people to develop eating disorders and addiction. 

Mental Health

The condition of an individual’s mental health can also impact the disorders that a person acquires. This is especially the case with other disorders that impact one’s mental health such as eating disorders and their co-occurring addictions. 

Substances Commonly Abused By Individuals With Eating Disorders and Addiction

Not all substances are created equal. Therefore, there are substances that people who suffer from eating disorders and addiction will more likely abuse. For example, alcohol is a popular substance among people who suffer from eating disorders and addiction. This is probably partly due to its accessibility and ability to make people slow down and forget after a while.  

Another substance that is popular amongst those with eating disorders and addiction is marijuana. This too is likely due to the accessibility of marijuana and its ability to calm people down. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Eating Disorders and Addiction

To treat co-occurring eating disorders and addiction, a person needs to attend professional dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment is a rehab program that contains addiction therapy and treatment practices that will simultaneously treat eating disorders and addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment is essential because treating just one part of a dual diagnosis without treating the other part will only cause the lingering disorder to spark up the treated one. 

Treat Dual Diagnosis Disorders At CNV Detox

Located in beautiful Marina Del Rey, California, CNV Detox is a detox and addiction treatment facility that makes successful recovery from addiction the top priority. Thus, whether a person needs to attend detox and addiction treatment for a specific substance addiction or a dual diagnosis disorder like eating disorders and addiction, CNV Detox can help lead you to recovery. 

To learn more about CNV Detox and the different detox and addiction treatment services that we provide, feel free to contact us any time. Our compassionate staff is available 24/7 to answer any questions that you may have.