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Eating Disorders and Addiction: Symptoms and Treatment

Eating Disorders and Addiction

Common Eating Disorders: Their Causes and Symptoms

Eating disorders are often talked about separately to mental health, or rather, as their own category. But an eating disorder is a mental illness, and they are some of the most complex mental health issues to treat.

We’ve all heard of going on a diet, of cutting out certain foods, or calorie counting. however, an eating disorder is much more extreme than this, and unlike a diet, is uncontrollable.

An eating disorder can develop within anyone and is a term which describes using food as a means of managing emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

This may include either eating too much food or too little food or eating a lot of food in a single sitting. Becoming obsessed with your food intake and eating patterns is a key warning sign of an eating disorder.

We are always here to offer impartial and confidential support.

54% of those with eating disorders are also addicted. (The Psychiatric Times)

Addiction is a condition that can develop prior to, or as a result of your existing disorder. More

If you are struggling with addiction alongside eating disorders, then call us today on 0808 1150 446.

Those suffering from addiction can develop an eating disorder as a means of feeling like they’re in control of an element of their life.

And for those with eating disorders, addiction can be a temporary escape from their feelings of depression, isolation and anxiety. Read more about the impacts of addiction on mental health.

How and why does an eating disorder begin?

The truth is that any combination of factors can contribute towards an eating disorder.

To think generally however, they are mostly caused by stress.

The more common causes of eating disorders can be grouped into three major categories:

 1. Psychological factors

  • Low self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Feeling a lack of control over your life
  • Other mental health illnesses such as anxiety or depression

2. Interpersonal and relationship factors

  • Trouble with familial and romantic relationships

Difficulty expressing various emotions and feelings

  • A history of weight insecurity
  • Past experiences of physical and/or sexual abuse

3. Social and External causes

  • Cultural and social pressures about body image
  • Narrow definitions and perspectives of beauty
  • Peer pressure

There are three main types of eating disorder

1. Anorexia nervosa

If you are suffering from anorexia, you will try and keep your weight as low as possible, even if you are dangerously thin.

Psychological and behavioural symptoms include:

  • Very strict dieting – excessively counting calories, avoiding food, or eating very minimally at mealtimes.
  • Secretive about food intake – you may hide food or lie about what you have eaten.
  • You may take diet pills to suppress your appetite.
  • Relying on overexercising to ensure weight loss.
  • Socially isolating yourself from friends and family.
  • Making yourself sick, which is commonly known as ‘purging’.

The physical signs of anorexia are very telling, and can be very dangerous:Symptoms of eating disorders

  • Weakness due to muscle and strength loss
  • Distracted and loss of concentration
  • Disorientation
  • Stomach cramps, nausea, bloating
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Feeling cold, shivering
  • Fine hairs growing on your arms and legs
  • Irritability
  • Loss of libido

2. Bulimia nervosa

With bulimia, you will be in an unhealthy cycle of eating too much then preventing weight gain – through making yourself vomit, taking laxatives or over-eating.

Tell-tale signs of bulimia:

  • Bingeing and eating large amounts of eating
  • Guilty feelings for bingeing
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about food or planning to eat
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Depression, self-harm, or anxiety
  • Calluses on the back of your hand
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Weight changes
  • Swollen hands and feet

3. Binge eating disorder (BED)

BED is characterised by eating a lot of food over a short period of time, or in a single sitting. Eating will cause you distress and you won’t feel like you are in control of your eating habits and patterns.

Symptoms include:

  • Eating quicker than normal
  • Eating until you are uncomfortably full
  • Eating secretly or lying about what you’re eating
  • Feeling ashamed or guilty after a binge
  • Other mental disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Overweight for your age and height
  • Stomach cramps and constipation

What is drunkorexia?

 This is a social term often associated with the dual diagnosis of eating disorders and addiction. This is not a clinical diagnosis and is a term often used among young adults.

It relates to the way an individual will alter eating behaviours to account for the caloric intake of alcohol.

This can become serious and lead to a full-blown eating disorder and an addiction too.

There is a way out: eating disorders are treatable

It is difficult to overcome body dysmorphic disorders and addiction on your own, but there is help available and professional support can help you to overcome your illness.

Like mental health issues and addiction, eating disorders are better when they’re treated early. Recovery is possible. Read our real-life stories here.

Treatment options are available to you if you are struggling with a dual diagnosis.

There is no need to be ashamed

You may be feeling isolated, ashamed or guilty for your illnesses, but you must remember that is it not your fault.

Our team are here to offer impartial advice and to point you to the right treatment and support.

Call us today on 0808 1150 446

Last Updated on February 17, 2021 by Alison