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Eating Disorders and substance abuse

Posted Jun 02 2012 9:50pm

More about eating disorders and substance abuse

Risk factors for eating disorders

 Eating disorders, especial Anorexia and Bulimia are far more common in woman than in men. The ration runs 10 women for every man. Our society’s emphasis on physical appearance buts young girls at extreme risk as they try to fit the image they see portrayed in the media. Eating disorders that begin in the teen or preteen years are unlikely to go away without treatment.

Certain activities and later on specific occupations have built in emphasis on keeping the weight off and a particular body shape. Young women who train to become models, gymnasts and dancers are at high risk. 

Young men who engage in sports that emphasizes weight classes are also at risk of developing Anorexia or Bulimia. Male gymnasts, wrestlers and jockeys all experience pressure to loose weight and keep it off that may become unhealthy. 

Added dangers

The dangers of eating disorders are not confined to those with anorexia who reach low body weight. Even when the body weight looks normal the process of purging, intentional vomiting and extreme dieting can create health risks. Some methods harm health while being ineffective for weight loss.

Purging and diuretics can create extreme dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. Dehydration does not equate with loss of total weight and can seriously impair health.

Subclinical forms

Milder forms of eating disorders are more common that previously thought as the emphasis on obesity and weight loss has grown many more people have resulted to extreme measures to get sudden weight loss or to reduce weight gain. Despite the health risks involved it is tempting to allow yourself an occasional purge to off set the guilty feeling surrounding over eating or a meal with excess calories.

Co-occurrence of Eating Disorders and other disorders

The overlap between Bulimia and substance abuse may be larger than previously thought.

Assorted studies on the co-occurrence of Bulimia and substance abuse have given varying estimates of the number of people with both issues. Current estimates run between a median of 25% and a high of 50%. Clearly lots of milder cases of combined Bulimia and substance abuse are going undetected and untreated until one or both problems become acute. These two problems together are much more that the sum of adding up both disorders.  

People with eating disorders are also more likely to currently have or have a history of having, an anxiety disorder and a mood disorder. Many with an eating disorder have three of more disorders. 

Those with eating disorders are at high risk to abuse or become dependant on stimulants. The “Jenny Crank” diet is legendary among Methamphetamine abusers. Abuse of stimulants for weight control regularly results in chemical dependency and serious health problems. 

Boundaries between eating disorders are not firm

During their lifetime people with eating disorders may move between the three principle eating disorders.

Medical issues are noteworthy

Medical problems are especially challenging for those with an eating disorder. Untreated an eating disorder can lead to serious medical problems and sometimes death. Eating Disorders rarely go away by themselves and need professional treatment before the damage to he body and the emotions becomes permanent and possibly irreversible.  

Other Eating Disorder posts can be found at:

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa


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