Alcohol Use Disorder & Eating Disorders

Suffering from an alcohol use disorder and an eating disorder can be a dangerous combination.

Drunkorexia: Alcohol Use Disorder & Eating Disorders


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According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics,7% of drinking adults suffer from alcohol use disorder. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders states that 9% of the United States population will suffer from eating disorders. 50% of those that struggle with an eating disorder will also suffer from a substance use disorder. It can be a catastrophe when an alcohol use disorder is combined with disordered eating behaviors. Drunkorexia is a term characterized by the substitution of meals with alcoholic beverages. While the term Drunkorexia is not a clinical term, it is commonly used to refer to eating disorder behaviors such as skipping meals, excessively exercising, and purging food to negate the calories consumed from drinking alcohol.

Although the DSM 5 does not recognize Drunkorexia as a diagnosable eating disorder nor an alcohol abuse disorder, Drunkorexia is still widely recognized by mental health professionals and the eating disorder community as dangerous behavior.

Drunkorexia: A Troubling Trend

Young adults seem to be gravitating towards Drunkorexia. They eat fewer calories to drink more and still maintain a slim figure. A study performed by George Washington University showed that female college students are more prone to this trend due to the emphasis on weight control. The more heavyset the woman, the more weight loss goal motivation seeking, which means they are more likely to engage in Drunkorexia behaviors.

Drinking on an empty stomach is dangerous. Your blood alcohol content increases faster but can also lead to dangerous alcohol-associated behaviors such as driving under the influence, injury, violent assaults, and expressive behaviors.

Engaging in Risk-Taking Behavior

Drunkorexia is extremely dangerous because when a person does not receive enough calories from their meals, and most of their calories come from alcohol, they receive a lot of empty calories. These empty calories do not provide any carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, or minerals needed to maintain body functions that an individual would receive from food. Lack of vital nutrients can result in dehydration, vitamin deficiencies, mental health issues, and physical impairment.

Individuals participating in limited eating and increased drinking may also be at risk for binge drinking. Binge drinking is usually considered four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks in two hours for men. Engaging in Drunkorexia also increases the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder or types of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, restrictive food intake disorder, rumination disorder, or binge eating disorder.

Choosing alcohol over food can lead to higher rates of serious health concerns than individuals who drink alcohol and eat an appropriate amount of food beforehand.

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Depression
  • Blackouts
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Heart and Brain Damage

The long term risks for alcohol-related health conditions are also increased, such as

  • Liver Cirrhosis
  • Cancer
  • Nutritional Deficiencies-Osteoporosis
  • Cardiac problems
  • Diabetes
  • Brain Disorders

Individuals taking part in this risky behavior also increase their potential risk of having unprotected sex, becoming a victim of a sexual assault, arrest for a DUI, and risk of hospitalization.

Drunkorexia does not just impact the gastrointestinal system in the body. It also impacts a person’s physical appearance. Alcohol eats up an individual’s vitamins and nutrients, quickening aging. A calorie deficit combined with binge drinking leads to anemia, acne, brittle nails, and breakage in hair. It also causes dizziness, abdominal bloat, and severe constipation. Drunkorexia might help you keep the weight off. However, the scale may show a lower number, but the mirror will show an unhealthy appearance.

Warning Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder combined with an Eating Disorder.

Having less food in your stomach will increase its time to become intoxicated. Alcohol is often used to escape stress and anxiety or to be social. Many people feel being able to enjoy alcohol and not consume the associated calories is a good thing; however, the impact of engaging in limiting food intake and offsetting it with alcohol intake causes long-term bodily harm. If someone you know has been consuming more alcohol and less food, you must monitor their thoughts, behaviors, and other habits. If you notice any of the following warning signs, you must tell someone or seek treatment.

  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Poor body image
  • Avoidant restrictive food intake
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • Extreme diets and excessive exercise regimens
  • Using laxatives or diuretics
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Inadequate feelings of being accepted
  • Eating large quantities of food in a short amount of time followed by feelings of shame
  • Control Issues
  • Frequent trips to the restroom after meals to engage in self-induced vomiting

Drunkorexia can begin with a single episode of skipping a meal to drink a lot later that night. But this behavior can quickly become a downward spiral to developing an eating disorder or an alcohol use disorder.

At Avatar Residential Detox, our team of clinicians is trained to work with young adults suffering from eating disorders, alcohol use, and other mental health disorders. We encourage anyone who needs help to contact us to learn more about our services.

How can I get help for Drunkorexia?

There are many treatment options for Drunkorexia, including inpatient or residential treatment programs for co-occurring disorders.Choosing the best treatment program for you or your loved one depends on various factors Choosing the best treatment program such as the type or severity of the disorder, age, facility location, and gender. Our team will decide the appropriate level of care through an intake evaluation to determine how best to get you back on track with regular eating habits and remove alcohol from your routine.

If you think you or a loved one is suffering from Drunkorexia, Avatar Residential Detox Center the therapists are here to speak with you. Whether you’re ready to enter treatment or simply want to gather more information from an informed counselor, you can reach out today. Contact Avatar Residential Detox by calling (973)-774-7222

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