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Addiction and Eating Disorders – A Dual Diagnosis

Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, and addiction used to be considered unrelated. When both were present in a patient, mental health professionals used to focus more on the substance abuse as it was deemed the primary and more dangerous affliction. Recent studies, however, have revealed a direct connection between the two. In fact, almost half of those suffering from an eating disorder tend to resort to drug and alcohol abuse. As more research on eating disorders was completed, it was discovered how they have very common traits with drug and alcohol addiction.

Those who were afflicted with either disorders exhibited sudden mood alterations and compulsive behavior. Both disorders were nestled in complex social and emotional issues that trigger and reinforce the destructive habits. Peer pressure and distorted messages from the media are some of the shared common factors. Furthermore, both disorders similarly affect biochemical mechanisms in the brain related to reward-seeking impulses. If left untreated, both can eventually lead to fatality. Just like the link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction observed in war veterans, the complicated connection between eating disorders and drug and alcohol addiction requires a holistic approach that employs dual diagnosis rehab.

Dual diagnosis is a technique that takes into account the difficulties that can arise when a person simultaneously suffers from substance abuse and another mental disorder. Medications to treat extreme anxiety, for example, can be rendered ineffective by the patient’s addiction to similar substances. A dual diagnosis can put together a clearer picture of a person’s needs. This, in turn, helps build a more effective treatment plan that can address the specific issues involved in both disorders. Such rehabilitation can be tailor-fit to the client’s needs and would engage the whole range of necessary therapies, from supervised detoxification to counseling. (Photo via)

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